Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Cycling the Dukeries Trail. Warsop to Fledborough Viaduct

A Cycling Adventure in Sherwood Forest and North Nottinghamshire

It's nice to go on an adventure once in a while and now Jemma's getting towards Coast 2 Coast distances on the bike it seemed like the perfect opportunity to cycle a big section of the relatively new Dukeries Trail that runs from the Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire border towards central Lincoln. Some sections are a little rugged so knobbly tyres or semi-slicks on a mountain bike or hybrid are ideal.

We started out from Warsop, joinng the trail in the heart of Sherwood Forest although the official start is by the station in Shirebrook before heading through the Carrs into Warsop. The Dukeries Trail is a nice multi-user route that's quiet, relatively traffic free and offers the chance to explore much of North Nottinghamshire.

In Warsop we headed up Hetts Lane and then onto Burns lane before swinging a right by Assarts Farm and onto a rough Bridleway that takes us into the legendary Sherwood Forest from Gleadthorpe to Boundary Plantation where at the crossroads we took a left to join National Cycle Route 6 to Hazel Gap.

We always see a group of twitchers out at Hazel Gap with more money's worth of camera's, lenses and binoculars than we have invested in our bikes. No matter how much we try to persuade them we simply can't price from them just what they're looking at.

From Hazel Gap there's a bit of a climb up to the crossing with the A616 so care must be taken here but the section through Gibraltar Plantation is a nice excuse to push on through a relatively straight, flat section that offers a few kinks in the trail that can be taken at speed. The trail narrows before you cross the road again following the trail through the edges of Clumber Park.

Jemma cycling through Bevercotes
The trail through Clumber Park is nice and wide although part of the trail forms a link in the cycling network within Clumber so be prepared for families out for a gentle ride or walk along the multi-user trail.

As we exited Clumber out across the A614 we crossed the main road and joined a quiet country lane which felt a world away from the main road. We passed the 'Nodding Donkey' in the field beside the lane. A showcase of the quality of the land beneath the area from which high quality oil is extracted.

The Dukeries trail now took us via quiet roads through the village of Bothamsall before cutting through the old colliery grounds on a traffic free bridleway to the quiet but affluent village of Bevercotes.

A turn right uphill took us past Milton Mausoleum. This is the mausoleum of the Duchess of Newcastle who passed away in 1822 and is a remarkable building.

Cycling past Milton Mausoleum on the Dukeries Trail

The trail then took us through West Markham as it diverted away from the busier B1164 road crossing the A1 twice before a roller coaster of a hill into Tuxford. Tuxford ishome to a beautifully restored windmill which is also home to a tea room and is a great place to stop for a cuppa and reflect on your journey so far. Sadly for us the windmill was closed, despite it being a Saturday. They're usually open 10-4 except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I'm sure we'll head there for a coffee at some point.

Tuxford Windmill Tearoom. Sadly closed for us!

We followed the main road through Tuxford and turned right on the edge of the village up past the school and a camp site on outskirt of the village descending gently before darting underneath the railways.

Tuxford village, Nottinghamshire

After the railway bridge we quickly took a right turn up a single track road before being signposted straight on along a byway. The route guide which we weren't reading at the time advises that cyclists might wish to take the next section on foot and we could quickly see why as this was no more than a rough, heavily divoted track where sections of trail often simply disappeared from underneath you and wasn't a particularly nice experience. A clever look at the map on the return leg allowed us to divert away from this section of the route.

Upon leaving the rough byway we were spat out at the road into Fledborough.A quick glance right and we saw the track down onto the old railway line which now forms a big part of the Dukeries trail heading due east almost into the centre of Lincoln on a stone path suitable for mountain bikes and hybrids. I had hoped it might be paved so I could utilise the River Trent crossing as part of routes but I'll have to stick to Dunham Bridge and Newark in future.

We followed the trail past the now defunct Fledborough station sign on the track along to Fledborough Viaduct where we stopped and turned back on ourselves

Radon ZR Race 6.o outside Fledborough Station on the Dukeries Trail
Fledborough Viaduct over the River Trent

Fledborough Viaduct has a total of 814m in length which is over twice as long as the better known (and much taller) Ribblehead Viaduct. Apparently it took over 9 million bricks in it's construction at a meagre cost of £65000 which would be millions in today's money.

From the Fledborough Viaduct we re-traced our steps back to Warsop to log some pretty significant mileage in preparation for the upcoming Coast 2 Coast  event and had a nice afternoon ride in the sunshine.

A real Banksy spotted on the edge of Sherwood Forest?

Sunday, 16 August 2015

12.12 Peak District- Time for Liam to Dig Deep

It's hard to believe that it's 8 months since I broke my leg. Having spent the last few months finally starting to build back to a relative level of fitness I still hadn't entered a race event until now. With the Rat Race Coast 2 Coast race just a month away it seemed that I needed a test in August to see where my fitness was at.
At the start line of the Dig Deep 12.12 event in my Muddy Race top

Aside from a few 5-10 km obstacle race within sensible driving time I stumbled across the details for the Dig Deep Peak District running weekend with a couple of Ultra's on the Saturday followed by a tough looking 12.12 mile trail race and 10km. The 12.12 miler had an advertised 632 metres of ascent across the length of the course which sounded like it would create a great challenge to see where I'm at with my training now. I know I'm not really at a race fitness level running wise but just being able to enjoy a long event was key for me despite my usual competitive nature.

Training has been building up now and whilst I hadn't yet gone beyond 10 miles in training I was confident I have the cardiovascular fitness from cycling to get the the finish line. It's been a stressful time since the break and in honesty I was relishing the chance to see what the North-Eastern edges of the Peak District had in store. It's an area I've seen very little of in the past but the course was billed as taking in some of the best trails the area had to offer and for £17 and a T Shirt it beat the obscene amount of money needed for a jolly around a muddy OCR somewhere.

The joy of being a member of the Team Muddy Race OCR community is that you'll often spot someone else in a top and instantly break down barriers as I discovered at the start line.

You never know when you'll see another member of Team Muddy Race at an event

Starting out from the interesting surroundings of Whirlow Hall Farm, a charitable trust on the outskirts of Sheffield which allows access to a great local network of trails that lead into the Peak District we had a briefing in the barn before heading out for the event. The organisers seemed to have put on a nice event village where they'd set up a stage in the barn, there was a bar, a few stalls and Outside outdoor goods shop had bought a selection of the running gear. The shop they'd set up was very professional befitting their place as a sponsor of the event. In comparison to the 2xu shop at the recent Runners World Trailblazer events look piss poor and certainly gave a very good impression of Outside.

Due to the nature of the event and changeable weather conditions mandatory kit included a compass, route map and a windproof jacket which had been downgraded from full waterproof body cover the week before the event. There were a few grumblings heard whether the jacket was really necessary but having been caught out in the Peak District in summer before I was confident that if anything did happen my trusty OMM Kamleika would do the job needed to get me back to base.

The race started pretty much on time from inside the farm and we headed North along a section of byways and footpaths with a few short road links until we turned west along the Porter Valley. The climb up the Porter Valley became a tough slog as I settled into a rhythm as we climbed over 200 metres in less than 4 kilometers before entering the Peak District.

First water staion came aside Lady Cannings Plantation, a favourite spot for local Mountaion Bikers where a trail has just been put in place to encourage their use in the area whilst controlling the areas of the woodland they have an effect on. Climbing up the sandy byway beside the plantation a few mountain bikers ambled past us having a good nosey at what was going on but fortunately as the section was nice and wide we were easy to pass without incident.

From there the course swung right along Houndkirk Road (Dirt road) before sweeping down to skirt the edge of Burbage Rocks. As we got to Fiddlers Elbow we turned South onto the rocky, rugged trail up to Higgar Tor. At this point it had become a case of jumping from rock, to rock, trying to find a suitable route forward as the relentless terrain was starting to take it's toll.

We dropped down from Higgar Tor along a network of paths and through the heather before what seemed like an almighty slog back up to Houndkirk Road. Sections of this became more of a fast power walk than a run as we fought the terrain and our body's requests to shut down on us. Fortunately we all knew that once at the top of this section we'd be on the home run. Back generally downhill to Sheffield for the final 5 kilometers via the Ling Valley at Ringinglow.

By this point I was starting to become a little weary of my ankle. It had stayed relatively strong but I was going past my usual comfort zone. I'd been struggling somewhat on the downhill sections and with the more rugged terrain as my confidence builds back up. Hills weren't an issue and I was often able to re-take people who'd flown past on the downhills. As this was more a test run than a race for me I held back, admiring the impressive views back to industrial Sheffield while generally enjoying the run.

At the finish of the Dig Deep 12.12 Peak District at Whirlow Hall Farm. 

I got back to Whirlow Hall Farm in 1:55:05 which was over 30 mins behind the winner but I was happy with where my body is now at. The distance had started to hurt but I'd initially hoped to get inside the 2 hour mark with a 10 min/ mile pace which I achieved with some time to spare.

All in the Dig Deep 12.12 race for 2015 was a nice event. Tough terrain (which I like) some nice scenery and a good test for my fitness without destroying me. Definitely something I'd come back to although I'm tempted for next years 30 mile Intro Ultra event.

Swag- Tech T shirt and a copy of Trail Running magazine.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Spartan Race Manchester Review 2015- Sponsors, bottlenecks and a Lack of Burpees

Spartan Race Manchester – Heaton Park 2015

This race I originally signed up just to do the super on the Sunday and so my niece now four and a half was able to see what this racing malarkey is all about.  With Spartan Race changing the date and giving me a free entry to the sprint race I decided to do what I have never done before a back to back race.  Manchester thankfully wasn’t too far from home though was an early start for all three of us.  This was a challenge for us all the first time while I raced. Liam wasn’t marshaling and was looking after an overly active Shanai after her power nap in the journey up.

Tackling the up and over cargo netting
Thankfully for the 1st time ever for Spartan there was no issues getting both me and Shanai registered and headbands on.  Though a quick warm up was time for me to get my 1st race of the day out the way with Shanai racing at 10.30 I would miss her but hoped she would like the run.

All the hills in Heaton Park I think Spartan Race found them and we ran them through the course of the race.  Though I went off in the Elite wave I found there was bottlenecks early on two lots of walls of after another but only two wide and here was waiting at least 5 mins.  This wasn’t the only bottle neck of the day.  At the beginning of the race Rich Pringle was saying having Commanders counting those Burpees if you couldn’t do the task but was found that people still not doing the full amount and personally didn't see many of these said commanders.
No burpees at the Hercules Hoist
My first lot of Burpees was the traverse wall this is one of my nemesis as failed attempts been my grip strength or the sheer amount of mud of the bricks giving grip issues.  You was told not to use the top of the board to hold on yet so many people was and no punishment and I didn’t realise at this time Liam and Shanai was watching and cheering.  The 2015 version of the wall was a Z shape and failed to get to the first corner so Burpees here I come.  I duly counted through my 30 to find out many didn’t do the full  Z  shape or did few burpees and went is  saddening how can you claim your medal when didn’t do it correctly?

Mastering the high walls
With more running through the fields we got to the 2015 Hercules hoist edition this was a flat plate different to last year’s Calor gas canisters.  I opted to try the Men’s weight and the guy allowed me the weigh did feel heavier and harder and such a challenge I got it up to the top…………. Just but no burpees there.  After this I was to find that the Altas stones now been replaced with concrete discs which in weight was between the weights of 15kg and 20kg and if anyone dropped it automatic burpees.  I had no issue with this got my Crossfit training to thank for that.

We began running through Heaton Parks woodland areas and some areas going from part to another didn’t have the best marking and also had a new obstacle dodge the general public, dogs and kids. And a few times there wasn’t a Marshal present to ensure was going the right way.  For me thankfully we wasn’t swimming in lake major relief as me and swimming just don’t mix well.  But we had a stream crawl under barb wire.  Normally these crawls no problem but many people was founding bottles glass and other sharp objects which is a major faux pas on Spartan.  As people was taking great care doing this there was at least 10 mins wait here.

Other obstacles encountered was a Scaffold step A frame with cargo net side, Sandbag pancake carry, Rope climb, two five foot walls and 7 foot ish wall of course the spear throw which sadly that and the rope climb cost me burpees.  Was disappointed there wasn’t more walls to do or the little jump overs.  I did this race in little over an hour but if wasn’t for the bottle necks I think would have achieved a slightly quicker time.

The customary Fire Jump is a Spartan Race classic
With two races in mind have to pace yourself after finishing able to go and have a good picnic of food before was due to set off at 13:00.  I found that Shanai didn’t like me muddy and wasn’t fussed on mud and scared of the height of the kids cargo net.  But non the less she looked to be having a great time.  Especially when we met up with the rest of the Muddy Race gang and having a quick chat on how thought race went and what to expect from the super.

The super was an almost replica of the sprint with more running in an area which basically had rabbit hole which was covered over from the long grass.  When I almost fell into one said hole I walked through this area as didn’t want a repeat of last year’s ankle spraining and The Fan dance race in mind in a few weeks’ time.burpees there.  The super had a tire carry to do instead of the sandbag pancake followed by monkey bars which I can’t do at all.  The woods had a slightly different path and a good slippy bank walk up which was the only time I was thankful for my x talons.  Bottle necks again was flagged up in the same areas and the barb wire crawl was much shorter as finally decided to close off as found out later on a few injuries sustained by some racers.
Jemma and Shanai pre-races

 My best achievement from the super I managed to do the traverse wall right to the end which shows I'm improving.

In short I enjoyed the races. It was nice to soak up the atmosphere but the lack of the sponsors and free stuff which we should have was disappointing.  It seems that 2015 are dry races no beer at the end.  The new team in place have a lot to get right I do hope so with new events popping up wanting your hard earned money they will need to Spartan Up