Trail Running

Man Too Hot.

Super Quaich, The Third Round.

Roukenglen Park, 18.2.18.

Albannach and the Unicorn tamer Jim Cameron are the hosts of the last Super Quaich party.

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Roulenglen Park isn’t my best course, but I always look forward to it as my Mum and Dad come and join the ranks of the Two Wheel Army support crew. (also help with Victoria getting the kids out from the trees) This year’s race is a bit later on in the race calendar so no snow this year but there is still a nip in the air.

Clare is racing in the B race today, the crew and I turn up just as the race has begun. Kevin Pugh and Craig Lewis Hamilton are at the font of the race as they come through the trees and into the main support bowl. RGCX has an excellent location for spectating, 95% of the course is watchable from the sign on the tent. (this year the burger van is on hand to feed the faces of all the spectators)

Clare is slogging through lap after lap for the hour’s race. A head full of determination of not getting a DNF on her last Cyclocross race of the season. Her grit and fighting spirit gets her around the course and rolls over the finish line celebrating that she is the last rider home. Well, news for you CC, you didn’t come last, and you beat the course. That’s always the right way to end the race season.

My turn to race approaches, I say my goodbyes, and I am wished good luck as I ride down to the start shoot. I find myself late to the party, squeeze past the bunch and nestle in the right on top of a sand pit. Great, more sand! I thought I had seen enough at Irvine. Chat away to Owen Philipson, then four by four we get moved out the sand and up behind the 20 gridded riders. While chatting away we don’t hear the briefing, and before we know it, the front has burst apart, and the race is on. It takes a moment to hear the Hoot Hoot Hoot of the starting horns, but they are going off, now It’s my turn to race.

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Sprint up the slog of the tarmac hill, suck in lungfuls of oxygen at the top. Navigate the muddy lines and other racers in this condensed area. Come through the trees and out to the open grass, take a quick left and ride along the treeline and then a right turn has you coming back on yourself. The bike soon dips down, taking in the fastest part of the course, a quick descent heading past the spectator bowl for the first time. Drive up the incline with the rear wheel slipping and sliding all the way and turn right and into the woods. A narrow path keeps us all close and fighting for space. Thanks to those pesky B racers they have churned up the grass and made it sticky and slippy slog. I slowly grind my way through the first section, and as I get into the next HTCC old guard Julian passes by, he forces me off track with a close pass, and I’m leaving patches of skin from my leg in the thick bramble bushes.

I like riding the last section of the woods, I always seem to ride this part quite fast, and I gain some place as we exit the woods and ride past the pits. My tyres roll over the timing line for the first time as we race down and around to the first run-up. It’s a short, sharp climb. My feet skid and slide as I run the mud/grassy incline. Dig my feet in a little deeper, and I get to the top of the hill, again taking a few places as I remount the bike and the TWA crew shout me on.

Run the next half of a hill as some riders go past still in the saddle, (why is it called a saddle when its attached to a seat post?) then ride along to the hurdles. Were still bunched up as we turn and dismount for the double magenta barriers. A lot of riders remount and ride along to the new downhill section. Me on the other hand, I keep running until I reach the brow of the hill, back on the bike and freewheel to the bottom of the hill. Some tremendous sweeping switchbacks line you up for the second longer grassy climb. I usually have to dismount and run this hill, but do you know what, I’m going to give it a bash and try to ride this sucker! And I do! I struggle to the top by some zig-zag riding and seeking out grip, also lots of sheer stubbornness helps at this point. The growing crowd also helps with tones of encouragement to all riders tackling the hill.

Back in the saddle (seat) and ride through the mud soup, that takes you into the trees once again. This links you back up with the tarmac start shoot, I have to walk/run the last of the bog as by peddling I don’t seem to be getting anywhere fast. Get to the tarmac and back to riding a bike race in a bike race. It’s being to string out and riding the top wood section I can pick a decent line with some free space ahead. I am gaining on a small group just a few seconds out in front. Deep down I know I won’t be able to hold on to the group as this course isn’t my fastest to get around.

Eventually lap after lap I run out of gas, I hear two laps to go as I come round to the timing van. (great commentary by @mikefixerpayne) Which probably means one and a half for me as I’m sure David Duggan will catch me again. I manage to ride the big hill a few more times but slowing every time I complete it. The last two times I manage 3/4 of the way up. I don’t have any lying down in the mud today, always a good race when that happens but I do regret wearing gloves and arm warmers.

Man got too hot! Halfway around I have stop and strip my arm warmers down to my wrists to cool down. Then at the spectator’s bowl, I pull up to remove my gloves and warmers altogether. I hate being too hot! It distracts me, I think about it too much instead of concentrating on racing. Also, I get a bit nauseous if I am too hot. I lose a tone of time to the riders in front of me by pissing about, but at least I feel some much-needed fresh air.

David does catch me again, just as we entered the woods behind the pits. I now know my race will soon be over as David is riding along to get the checkered flag and the win. I have someone in my sights, a Johnston Wheeler is slowing, this spurs my legs on and the speed is up as we come through the last section of woods. At the end of the woods and entry into the pit area, he slips and goes down. I dig in and pass him on the inside. Kept the power going, ride around the bend and into the last corner. A quick glance over my shoulder and I see I have some space on riders at my back, let the bike glide over the line in 64th spot and to complete RGCX and my Cyclocross season.

Huge thanks to all the Unicorn helpers and event organisers, RGCX is always special.
Thanks again to Michael Martin again some incredible pictures and also to Graeme Cross for some classic black and white images.
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Riding The Fat Tyres.

MTB Days.

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A break in the Scottish Cyclocross season gives me a chance to change up the 33mm Cross tyres for the large 2.1-inch Schwalbes to hit the local snow-covered hills.

I am grateful I decided to keep the triple ring up front on the Dirty Harry MTB. By spinning in the little 22 tooth cog I can ride the 90% of the grassy slopes in the Kilpatrick Hills, this gets me to the playground of singletrack and fire roads.

Gary comes from an MTB riding history and is desperate to take me out and show me his G-string but more worryingly he’s talking about his Mangina! When talk of taking me up the Khyber Pass, I really started to worry about being alone in the woods with him. Lucky for me these are just the names of the Strava segments. (Mountain bikers and their weird humour I suppose)

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The trails up in the Kilpatrick Hills have some great singletrack riding amongst the heather strewn hills, but the G-string section is a lot more technical for my standard. A lot of arse crack hanging an inch off the back tyre and rear wheel skids gets me down the switchbacks in one piece, with only the one little tumble in the deep snow. Navigate through the darkness of the Pine Forest and come out to where the trees are being cut down and turned to massive piles of logs by the roadside, we pick our way over dead branches and carpet of needles as we head down to a small pond. We are now at the ass crack of the G-string, a lengthy climb back up to the Loch Humphrey on the logging roads is ahead of us. (Glad again to have the wee 22 upfront)

Next ride out on the fat tyres takes us out along to Mugdock Park, Milngavie. The rain is coming down quite persistent, It’s going to be a somewhat wet ride today. Gary wants to let me loose on his Mangina trail. This is another bike handling level up on my limited bike handling skills. Some very technical riding through the Pine Forest starts us off. The constant up-down, up-down of drainage ditches between the rows of trees have some deep ruts and exposed rocks just waiting to have a fight with my rigid front fork and hardtail MTB. Gary is alright and scoots along on his full suspension bouncy bike like its a freshly laid tarmac road.

The good thing about Mugdock trails is the coffee shop halfway through. Stop off to top up our caffeine levels then swing back into the saddle and ride back out into the sleet. The quick stop didn’t help to defrost our frozen fingers, back on with the wet gloves and try to warm up again as we ride the next section of the Mangina trail.

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A lot of wooden bridge riding comes next, and when we come to a massive fallen tree, the local trail builders have put this to use, they have built a wooden ramp to get you up and over and back riding the trail. Gary rides it without a hitch, me on the other hand, I ride around the long way as I know my skill level and just now it wasn’t going to be put to the test on this obstacle.

We come to the end of the trail, we take the decision to turn around and ride back the way we have come. Today we had planned on getting to the end of the Mugdock trails and then ride over the heather moors and hills to join back in with the Kilpatrick Hills, then towards home. The low lying clouds put an end to these plans. We would be riding up into the clouds as we made our way home. It could become a bit of a hazard as we don’t have any GPS equipment with us apart from our smartphones. They can be temperamental with the weather and not the best equipment to pick up a strong signal and aid with navigating the deer trails to get us in the right direction of home. The safe option was to turn around.

Riding back along the trails gave me a little bit more practice and helped build more confidence in my bike handling abilities, but I’m a long way off being comfortable and taking drop-offs and jumps just yet. The more I get out and ride these things the better and more natural It will become on the bike. Hopefully, some of the skills I learn will help during some cross races as well. Transferable bike skills, we should all have them.

Mountain Bikes Belong in the Hills, not the shopping run to Aldi.

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The 10 K Runner. 

Going Hillbilly Today.

5th March 2017. Dalmellington, Ayrshire.

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I have signed up for some trail running to keep me from gaining my weight in pizzas over the offseason in cyclocross.  I think a lot of people stick to racing bikes, be it MTB enduros or slicks and race on the road.  For Clare and me we are going to the hills.  Racing in some hill runs and cross country events.  Hillbilly 10km race is to be our baptism of fire with the running folk.

During sign in, they have a slideshow of the course playing on a big tv.  There was also a large map on the wall showing the terrain.  Both these were a great help, as it meant we could see how the course would pan out today.  These two things were new for me at races, it was an excellent idea.  The slide show would be a good idea at cross races, showing the course features, if it could somehow be rigged up.

20170309_203820.jpgAfter the race briefing, we head down to the start line just outside the gatehouse.  The race begins after the hooter at 11 O’clock, and 138 runners are off at all different speeds.  I managed to get quite close to the front before the start, with a fast pace I soon move up the groups and roughly am about 20/30 position as we run along the canal side.  Think we run approximately 3km before the road turns up, with the gradient going up it also begins to turn rougher underfoot.

The first hill of the run is up and along a farm type road then makes way to a muddy path with some good amount of muddy puddles to splash through.  This is more of the terrain I have been running on and more enjoyable than the first 3km along the flat tarmac.  Splatter my way to the top of the hill, and now it’s time to not fall on my arse as I hit the descent.  I always thought this would be the easy bit of hill running, it’s not!  I am too busy concentrating on not standing on ankle breakers of rocks and dodging the mud to think about how fast to run going down.

No rest at the bottom of the hill, as soon as I get down there the next hill begins. Head back up the hill, more of a nature trail path we follow winding all the way to the top.  Great encouragement from the local army cadets marshalling the course.  What goes up must come down.  Descend down a very potholed access road past some stables (lift to the finishing line on the back of a horse could be good).

Last km now.  Cross the road and clip the kerb, sending me sliding on my knees along the grass.  The guy behind me overtakes while stifling a laugh.  I get back up from the mud and begin the chase along the nature trail.  I can hear the cheers as the front runners take the line.  I know I am close now as I see the bridge over the canal, round the bend and I am on the home straight.  Try to get my tired legs up for a sprint for the last few hundred metres to cross the line.

My 10k race is complete.  Collect my little finishers medal and down some much-needed glasses of water.  I crossed the line in 47 minutes, coming in at 33rd position out of 138 participants.  Clare crossed the line in 61 minutes and in 91st place.  A great run in 10 layers of running tops!

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Bring on some more Hills.

 

 

 

 

Sunday Going Down The Spiral.

4th December 2016.
Lochore Meadows, Scottish Cyclocross Championships.

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My second year racing at Scottish Champs. Pretty sure I will not surpass last year’s position, but I shall give it my all.

It’s a nice crisp winters morning drive through to Fife.  Last year’s course was eating a lot of rear mechs for lunch.  I escaped incident free last year so hopefully by the time my race comes around the course won’t be too badly churned up and I’ll escape with my bike intact.

A quick warm up along the road reveals my front break is super loose.  Head back to the car and fix it as I’m pretty sure it will be needed at some point today.  Drop the pit bike off and head off to get to grips with the “Spiral of Doom“.  This part of the course wasn’t here last year but it’s made its return for the Champs.  Basically a lot of riding to your left for two minutes then ride to your right for another two minutes.  If I was to stake that out I would have been there for a week.  Well played Paul Zarb. 

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After a few dizzy laps of the Spiral its time to hit the start line.  I manage to squeeze quite far up in the grid.  My highest place of the year so far!  A quick brief was shouted out, now it’s time to wait for the bang of the gun.

BANG!  We are let loose, I get a solid start on the inside.  Keep up with the guys who were in front of me on the line.  It’s a mad dash down to the first corner, a tight left taking you into a small wooded section.  A bottleneck happens and we all slow to a stop, find a space on the outside and I’m off racing again.  Once out of the woods the low sun makes spotting the best line for the next turn a bit hard.  Ride over some soft grass and back into the woods and out into a small clearing.  Dismount off the bike, run around the sharp left and right chicane.  Stay off the bike and continue running through the mud out to the main arena where the low sun makes for difficult viewing.

The flat grass in the main arena gets you back up to speed, hang a sharp right and you’re now eyeing up the ever growing double hurdles.  A quick run with some big leaps over the hurdles, hop back onto the bike and get the gear turning again.  Ride past the timing van and over the finishing line with the sun burning your retinas.  I am with a group of riders as we hit the solid tarmac and race up to a sharp left keeping you on the tarmac heading back to the woods.  I lose some distance here, one gear can only get you so fast!  Drift to the back of the group as we ride under the canopy of the trees once again.

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Ride out from under the tree cover and past the pits and into the Spiral for the first time. Halfway through the spiral, I am closing in on the leader of the pack Ross Johnston from HTCC, taking some positions as I go.  Then disaster strikes!  I’m down on the deck!  I over cooked it on one of the turns and front wheel slipped out, back to the end of the bunch I go.  The group have a small gap on me by the time we go past the start line and into the woods again.  At least there is no bottleneck at this point again.  Manage to catch back onto the group as we come back into main areas and eye up the hurdles for the second time.

Take another lap and we are starting to split.  By the time the tight corners and woods are dispatched, we are back onto the tarmac path.  The front riders have pulled away again and now I am being caught by riders behind.  I know losing too much speed and time in the corners but I don’t want to push it and take a tumble.  Into the Spiral again and this is where I am making ground on riders (if you took the wide line there was more grip).  An Ayr Road rider is my target. I pull him back, but over the next few corners, he’s away again. This happens each lap (really need to work on keeping the speed up on corners or applying the power out of them).

Onto the last lap, I brave it more in the corners and keep some speed up (smooth is fast). Franco Porco shouting to me to keep the wheel of riders in front. It spurs me out the saddle, and I catch on to Darren Lindsay’s wheel (and his shrinking seat post) as we tackle the spiral, we catch the Ayr Road rider again.  Now it’s time to work my socks off and try and gain two places before we finish.  We hit the last wooded section, off the bike and run the bends, sling the bike on the shoulder and run the ever-thickening mud back out to the main arena.

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Only a few corners left and the double hurdles.  Head down and pedal like mad!  A clean dismount off the bike and attack the barriers.  I can see that I have gapped the two riders chasing me, now I know that I can’t lose any positions and could ease off.  I don’t!  I keep my head down and speed up, going for a fast lap.  Roll over the line absolutely spent to take 54th place in the Senior male race.  I think I qualify for V40 races with me turning 39 in a few days time so could be my last race as a Senior, could be wrong though.  The sound of a 40-minute race looks much appealing.

That’s my racing done for 2016, but have the Super Quaich Series starting in January at Rouken Glen Park to keep training for and also keep me off the Christmas cakes.

2016 it’s been eventful, started shite, broken bikes but finished last few races in one piece, which was my primary objective. 

Education in Cyclocross 

13.11.16 Fife College, Dunfermline.

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It is the turn of Dunfermline Cycling Club to host round 4 of Scottish Cyclocross Series. A new course for me this time around as I didn’t ride their last race they held here.

On the drive through from Glasgow, it was a constant wall of fine rain. Today’s ground conditions will be soft and slippy think I need to let the air out the tyres for this one. (I aways have them too hard).

After signing on and sorting out my gear, I head up and catch the start of the V40 men’s race. It is a frantic start, Franco Porco getting to the first corner out in front. After the last rider rides passed I start to wander around the course to see what’s in store today.

Mud, mud, glorious mud!  Though I don’t see any glorious mud in Dunfermline. It all looks rather sticky and very deep. Everyone keeps telling me singlespeed will be good for this course. Me, not so sure?

Gary McCrae takes the win in the Vet 40 race followed by Stevie Jackson and then a great comeback race from Craig Hardie taking the third spot. The V40 race is now over, time to make my way to start line.

Just as we are getting gridded the rain starts. Great! Just what we needed! Get settled in amongst the rear of the pack again.

Whistle blasts and we’re off.

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It’s bloody chaos!  I try to remember green is good, brown is bad. I hug the left-hand side of the course as close to the tape as possible.  The brown stuff becomes even thicker now it’s time to get off and run.

Running through ankle deep mud along an off camber section while one arm is flailing about, trying to not let the mud suck your shoes off is a pretty hard task. I managed to drag my feet through it and get back on the bike for a slight downhill chicane. I noticed this became a huge bottleneck when watching the V40 race. I decide to jump off and leg it down the outside of everyone and make up around ten places.  Result!

I don’t bother remounting the bike as just around the corner are two massive hurdles. Jump over these then it’s back onto the bike for a good downhill section, sucking in some much-needed oxygen.

Next part of the course was single-track through the trees. One nice little bomb hole to deal with, then you came to “Jump for Trump”.  Great efforts by the Marshalls encouraging people to catch some air. I bottled it every time!  I would end up in the bushes with a broken bike if I attempted it, so wheels stayed firmly on the ground every lap.

A few more soft zig-zag areas came next. I could ride these well if I got the power down, but once the mud got too deep, I would grind to a halt. Back off and running again.

Swing off the grass and onto some welcome tarmac. Blast up the home straight and over the line, my first lap complete. After the tarmac had run out, it was off the bike and assault the run-up.

Swing the leg off, dismount the bike. Attack the hill with small steps, so I don’t slip on my arse and have the bike land on me or bounce down the hill in a heap. After cresting the hill, I run the next long grass section. I don’t think I would have the power or momentum to keep me driving through the mud if I tried to ride this part.

All my hill running should be paying off today, I am keeping pace with folks with fancy gears (probably their biggest gear) that are still riding through the sludge. Get to the hard stone start area and its back on the bike and power down to ride as much distance to the off camber as I can.

This top grass section is my hardest part of the race, I was glad to get back on the bike and ride the rest of the course. After each lap I dreaded the run-up, I knew I was in for a long slog pushing the bike. After 5 laps and the bike being caked in mud, I nipped into the pits and brought out my clean bike.

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Big mistake, this bike weighs considerably more it also has a smaller gear on it. My next two laps just became even harder. This shows in my results by an extra minute added to each lap.

With me slowing in the last few laps it means I got caught by a group of riders, some are lapping me, some are taking my position. I have nothing in the tank to chase down, so last few corners suck! I felt I had flung away some good positions.

All in all, I finished in 69th place from 96 riders. Harry Johnston made it 100% win rate so far taking the win. Gary Mcdonald stepping up to his usual step on second spot and last podium place goes to David Duggan with third place.

Bikes were manky, I was manky but I loved that course, and it did suit a single speed.

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 Next up is Irvine and it’s Sand Dunes of Doom!

Huge thanks to all the Organisers and the Marshalls for putting on this round of the series.

Also thanks to Anthony and Michael and the rest of the photography crew for helping bring the memories of pain and tears through the medium of images.

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Two Wheel Army Goes On Foot.

Life on a Bike has changed to Life on a Bike + Running.

Lately, I have ditched the bike and now have been hitting the trails with my trainers on. It all started with trying to add more ways to become fitter within a limited time scale. I do the school run, I would then take the dog for a walk around the park. The easiest thing I could do was to wear my running stuff to the park and start jogging instead of walking.

I have always enjoyed running, but problems with my Achilles made me take up cycling for the less impact on my foot. If I keep the mileage low, then I hope to avoid significant strains.

The first laps of the park were a huge shock to the system, I managed 5 (2.5 miles) laps in around 30 minutes. Terrible times compared to when I used to run to work most days (5 miles in 30 mins was my best time). At least I now have a starting point to work from.

I have been doing this little loop for a few weeks now, bringing my lap times down. I am now doing the 5 laps in 18-19 mins. With my fitness levels growing, I have now pushed my running to the next level.

Trail Running!

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Trail running could become my new fitness addiction, I always love getting out into the countryside. After dropping the kids off at school, It’s only a 5-minute drive up to the Kilpatrick Hills, Clydebank. Stick a Podcast on, and I am off and running. Super simple with minimal equipment and fuss.

This is probably the reason why I have taken to running, as I am now running the trails that I would usually use my Cyclocross bike on. When I get home, I only have to kick off my manky shoes, rather than spend the next hour or so cleaning my bike out in the freezing cold. The only thing that needs a good clean is the dog, after him finding every muddy puddle in the hills to drink out of.

I have now got a 6-mile loop, a steady climb up over 1000ft in the first part of the run warms me up nicely, then the gradient gets very undulating for the next 45 minutes. The past two days the weather has changed, bringing snow and ice making for slower times and conditions under foot a challenge. On the other hand, it makes the views of the surrounding hills a welcome distraction.

With the ground becoming softer I hope that the running will be beneficial in my cyclocross races, as there will be a bit more running on the courses due to the ever-growing mud sections. I do think I am getting fitter and my times are improving, so now it’s just a case of keeping it up and pushing harder up the hills.

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