Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Cycling From Bestwood Country Park to Sherwood Pines Along Route 6

The Dirty Muddy Thirties Now Has a YouTube Channel

It's been a while since we picked up an SJCAM 4000. We've fancied doing some videos for a while so it seems a good idea over the winter for us to set up some from our adventures. Here's out first proper video following National Cycle Route 6 from Bestwood Country Park near Nottingham up to Sherwood Pines Forest Park to join their Blue cycling trail for a dash around to the visitor centre for coffee and cake.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Red Bull Robin Hood Review 2015- Orienteering Meets Obstacles

Jemma's Adventure at the Red Bull Robin Hood 2015- Orienteering Meets Obstacles

Jemma ready to roll out at the 2015 Red Bull Robin Hood, Sherwood Pines

This event couldn’t be in a better position than on the doorstep at Sherwood Pines.  So when this came up for 2015 Liam quickly signed up for it as I left a little too late and all the individual tickets was sold out.  Trying to get a team together was proving difficult than I anticipated asking round my CrossFit box and the usual Facebook boards was able to secure myself a place.  With the coming Edinburgh MHSOF Liam pulled out because a knee injury which left him not doing the Nottingham Half Marathon Men's Health event.  The entry was then passed over to me by default (Wink, wink). 
With the event been so close to home would be cheeky not to ride to Sherwood Pines, with the misty start I ended up taking off my glasses and riding without then as decided with slightly dry eyes not to wear my contact lenses.

Getting to Sherwood Pines and the great people at Pines cycles looked after my bike quick change of shoes off to register at the event there was loads of people all dressed up and acting as if from Medieval times to give a great vibe.  With plenty of coffee, water and of course Red Bull there was enough caffeine in my body to keep me going for some time.  After been given last minute prep talk from Liam on what to do.  Jemma remember we are north of the forest if you get lost.  Who he was kidding me get lost absolutely is going to happen if someone was to back me to get lost 1st I would be the 2/1 favourite.  Liam bid me farewell as I went for my briefing as was going to play on and around the red route and would see him later on.  No doubt muddy.

The Red Bull Robin Hood Event Village

Robin Hood gave a brief talk about what was going to happen regards the event and was lead into the forest where a Red Bull gazebo was erected with more Red Bull on offer to drink.  Never mind that I was in need of the little girl’s room now.  So it seems every guy had the same idea as well and saw plenty of men finding their own spot.  After finding a suitable area was time to make a circle which was given a map scroll to read one minute before the start of the race.  Looking at the map couldn’t even find where I was with where I was on the map.  This wasn’t looking good already and the flow of people in equal measures went separate ways.  For the next 75 and a few minutes extra (will get to those few minutes extra shortly).  Bumped into a couple and kind of tagged along with them and between the three of us trying to find A, where we was B, where that pesky checkpoint was, C try and complete some tasks.  The two tasks we did encounter was the Sherry cask barrel roll and flip to get extra marks which I did with ease.  The second one was a balance beam with a broom which wasn’t allowed to touch the ground or the wood frame.  Me and co-ordination, well that didn’t do so well with the 3 allotted attempted I failed.  But off we went.  After getting a checkpoint it dawned on us three we need to head back as we had 20 ish mins left and a bit patchy on where we was.  Making a move and landmarks not exactly presenting itself estimated that was about few miles from the finish oops.  After finding where needed to go I ended up running ahead as the Lady in the couple was flagging and with basic direction and two groups of walkers I found the finish yes I was 8 minutes late = 80 points deduction  leaving me a grand total of 30 points.  At least was a minus number great fun was had.  The weather was with us dry and sunny.  Liam had much fun on his bike all over Sherwood Pines and was at the end to congratulate me on me at least finding the finish line

Monday, 2 November 2015

An Adventure at the Rat Race Coast to Coast

A Challenge a Year in the Making- The 2015 Rat Race Coast to Coast Event

By Jemma Bates

Jemma and Liam at registration in Nairn
The Coast to Coast event has been the main goal for this year’s training.  This for me has taken a lot of hours training not just fitness but how to handle a mountain bike.  After investing in a Rockrider 8.1 with the bike to work scheme at work.  I had to get used to using lever gear changers which my previous bike had temperamental grip shift gear changer and able to use these gears effectively.  My usual cycling was easy commute riding between points which had no technical difficulty so the transition to off road riding was certainly interesting,

The main change which had to learn was clip less pedals and used an mtb shoe which again was all new to me.  I was sent o get used to wearing these shoes and bed them in spin classes at the local gym.  It didn’t take long to see having these shoes I could go faster on a spin bike but found it hard to get in and out of these pedals.  Liam assured me that with perseverance I would get better and be second nature releasing feet from them.  My first ride using the bike with these new pedals was interesting and had a few accidents with incorrect gear changing and my rubbish un-clipping ability.  I have swore many times using these as to me was having to re learn how to ride a bike again.  The 1st time I learnt was at the age of 7 almost 8 years old. Co-ordination and balance has never been a strong point.

What’s the point of doing some challenges if they were going to be easy?  I am not a natural athlete but steady progress is key and I had Strava to thank for that to get even a small positive from a supposed crap ride.  Fast forward it wasn’t till we had our holiday break in Newquay I had encountered a lot of road hills and many longer steeper hills than experienced at home.  From that Liam had been putting me through my paces at Sherwood Pines and other blue route locations in prep for the off road section in day 2 of the challenge.  I am sure there was a moment he was cursing me a lot and wondered will I actually get through this race.

Training for the Rat Race Coast to Coast

It's tough to train for such a big event but Liam helped give me some direction over the course of the year. Everything I've done has in some way helped with the preparation.

Bike riding- Building up to 50 mile cycle rides with cross country sections. I've been regularly riding down to the cycle routes at Sherwood Pines and riding back. It's a nice 20-odd mile ride if I follow NCN 6 from home, do a loop round the Blue intermediate trail and then head home all cross country. Hill, hills and did I mention hills (A week cycling around Newquay destroyed my Quads but I learnt a huge amount from it)

Running- Having a Rat Race season pass has stood me in good stead for this and helped developed what Liam calls my 'Diesel Engine'. From the tough hilly Deerstalker back in March to those torturous 20 miles of the Dirty Weekend through to the Trailblazer Half-Marathon events everything has been with a purpose towards the Coast to Coast. I had been hopeful of doing Man V Mountain but it was the weekend before the Coast to Coast and with such a demanding course there would be too much risk of me coming out of it in a worse condition which I didn't want on the run up to the Coast to Coast. However I'm determined to do them both next year after missing this year's event.

Kayaking. I have to admit that I was fortunate enough to get a small amount of practice at both the Stockton and London River Rat Race events so I was more experienced than Liam at something sporting for a change. I had been working plenty on my upper body strength and endurance too at the excellent Crossfit Hexis and this really helped. 

Kit Choices for the Coast to Coast  

We decided for me after reading past years racers experiences that having road tyres on my mtb and then change to knobbly tyres for day 2 which help and benefit ground conditions and would allow me to pick up pace on the road sections.  The road tyres I used was Nutrak 26 x 1.75 semi slick. .These tyres used the same inner tubes as my knobbly tyres and I was able to have greater speed and ease of riding when doing the road sections .  Having the same inner tubes means less equipment I need to take with me if should anything happen to the bike.

Choosing the right  bag which I would use to carry all the bits I would need for my Coast to Coast journey

Me and Liam was having a few discussions with this as I didn't want a bag too small and not fit everything in it and suggestions of a small light bag.  We then came to a joint decision of having the OMM last drop 10 litre bag would fit the job perfectly.  I must admit when it come from the Rat Race store it looked to be on the small side and I wondered will it fit everything in and be of any use at all.  I went on a few test runs and rides with it for feel of the bag and fit.

Getting the list of required items was needed to take with me was straight forward but to make sure was packed in the right bags for which day was a difficult one and shouldn't be rushed at all.  Liam's super cool organised approach did work out well.  Only one thing I forgot was my charger for my Garmin Forerunner 210 as there are charging points when you finish on day one in the food tent note for 2016 as this failed as we got to the Road run of the cycle leg of day two.

Prepping what you are going to eat while you are riding is a hard job which I still need to fine tune we took Peanut squares, Buttered Malt loaf, Flapjacks, Energy gels and a treat pack of beef jerky.  I found most of this OK to eat in tests done before hand and not sweet but in the saddle I found couldn't swallow or consume whilst moving and wont use again as food sources and with energy gels there is so many I can consume before I feel sick and unable to take on even when I need it which will be a battle for some time.

Getting to race day I have been a bag of nerves from getting my bike from been serviced to having my semi slicks put on my bike and to test ride on how will perform in the race.  I was not under any illusion would be quick nor find easy in fact I was shitting myself and questioning everything in my training and the events I had done before Coast to Coast.  After registering and getting my race numbers It was a case of having a good meal in my stomach and cast all feelings aside now if that wasn't hard enough.

Breakfast eaten we made our way to the start line and been scanned through awaiting our 1st run me and Liam already got our plan of action sorted the last mile or so he would run ahead and make sure our bikes which we left at Cawdor castle was OK and ready to go about the time I got there via having a wee stop. This worked fairly well with Liam vanishing up the trail with a mile to go on the run, no doubt putting the frighteners on a few of the people he flew past en route to the bikes. By the time I arrived at Cawdor Castle (I didn't actually notice a castle to be honest I was so focused), Liam had managed to get pretty much everything in order ready for us to hit the road. 

After getting all set up and ready for going again it was a case of keep going and trying not to stop.  This was a impossible task as every so often was needing to blow my nose from another re-occurrence of a sinus infection but this I think I ended up middle of the field which was happy with but I found some of the uphills not favourable. Especially the last massive climb which i did a Jemma special and selected the wrong gear and my chain came off. Not un-clipping quick enough I managed to fall off my bike ungracefully into the kerbside grass verge.  I don’t know if Liam was cursing me or not but he sorted me out and we slowly made our way upwards. I really had to dig in and grit my teeth but I was compensated with a great downhill which I was so thankful for Liam to follow for my path on the road as we flew past a few cautious riders as we dropped down to Fort Augustus.

 When we got to transition at Fort Augustus we had a short run and Kayak on Loch Ness.  Both me and Liam got soaked me from the waves and Liam with my shit paddling and wet him (sorry).  Both of us managed to get back to transition and that was end of day one with plenty of time to spare allowing us to wander around the beautiful Fort Augustus, grab a beer (well earned) and a nice bite to eat on the Locks. 

The main thing was trying to recover the best you can and take on as much food as possible in preparation for day 2.

Coast 2 Coast Day 2

Getting up early and packing our tent up back up making sure we hadn’t left anything behind.  Triple checked our rucksacks for day two as we needed few extra mandatory items to carry which was needed for day one.  Liam had now fitted the night previously my knobbly tyres onto my bike as we had a good 20 miles off road to do and 13 miles on the road. 

We set off in a never ending line of people and trying to get comfortable again on my bike.  This proved difficult as tiredness started to set into my legs and they took a while for them to be persuaded to work efficiently.  The wind from the Loch on the left was a constant for at least 5 miles while we cycled. 
When finally came away from the loch edge and some shelter started to feel more comfortable.  This was short lived as we had to briefly get off the bike and wheel into the woodlands by a single track and started to climb in the woodlands and gain attitude.  This started to worry me slightly now as starting to form clusters and with me have clip less pedals I know wasn’t overly efficient at getting out of and when going up an hill.  Me been myself had come very close to hitting another person’s back wheel as she stopped in front of me on a hill thankfully I yanked out my foot just in time.  Casually saying oops almost went into the back of you.  Liam was saying later on not best thing to say oops and comment as it may have unsettled the rider which isn't what is needed for riding in a group scenario.

The route had a lot of ups which I wasn’t used to for group riding with some loose uneven ground descents. For this I was absolutely terrified and got to a tight bend which even with a foot un-clipped I couldn’t manoeuvre. It didn't help that there were people falling off bikes around me too. I walked down very shaken and in tears the series of tight switchbacks and when I finally saw the bottom and pulled out the road again I was relieved especially as this was the first proper point I was able to take more gels or food on. The off road section didn’t give you much opportunity to eat. 

After calming down and trying to “woman up” unsuccessfully we started the road section where my Garmin watch now decided to die on me and we had to use Liam's

The Road cycle which we followed had some beautiful scenery and plenty of hills which by now i was flagging a lot. As we started to near Fort William it was a case of digging in and keep on moving and get mentally prepared for my next challenge the run 14 miles of it.  Liam had spotted ahead a garage and said you fancy a mars bar i nodded yes please and said follow ahead and get to the bike drop off point and he'll see me there shortly.

Once we arrived at the transition we was only allowed to stay there for 30 mins. Just enough time to get more food inside me go to the toilet and take out the backpack all cycling gear I wouldn’t require from this point onwards.  Liam was an angel and brought said mars bar in a form of a Mars Duo which I polished off very quickly. On any given day me to manage a mars bar is hard going for me but I wolfed it down. It was agreed that Liam was going to run on his own and have some fun time on his own without me- a first over the weekend.  Staying and running at my walking dead pace wouldn’t be good for us.  I know my running would be on a serious empty but if had to crawl that run stage I would do so.

The Final Walk- Run to Glencoe

As I left transition I started to lightly jog I managed to carry on till I got to the forest entrance and the slowly inclining fire road which then slowed to a fast power walk pace.  This pace i kept up till came to the top of that peculiar peak and when started to descend down which was uneven that for me was proving difficult.  Shower of rain came down and decided to put my Scott jacket on to protect me so wouldn’t get cold which I then kept on right to the finish line. 

I met a few people along the way and that broke up the journey.  The last four or five miles I was subjected to the midges and they seem to attract to me whether it was the sweat or they just liked my contact lenses.  This made it gruelling and at this point I had ran out of water and the halfway point station as I found out from Liam was giving water out had no water.  I couldn’t take on any more gels or flapjacks without body starting the process of bringing up the gel as quick as I had eaten it.  When I finally got to descend down the grassy muddy hill to get to the Kayak stage I was thankful for been over taken by a group which offered me liquids which happily drank.  Getting to the bottom I seriously felt I needed my x-talons as my grip and traction was nonexistent in my trailrocs.  This is something would do have different running shoes for each day to suit the type of running involved.

The views from the Kayak finish at the Isle of Glencoe Hotel
The Kayak stage was a short run from where was a small cue of us waiting to be assigned to a Kayak as i came on my own I was asked if wanted to kayak on my own and there was another person not far behind could join me on the Kayak so decided to wait.  The guy was quite cheery and we set off.  Wasn’t long till found my new partner in crime started to cramp and stopped paddling and left me trying to compensate which was hard as I was at the back of the Kayak.  There was much pleading and anxious moments before we got a rhythm back as wasn’t strong swimmer and getting ever so near to a island which we didn’t need to be near to.  The period of time in the water time stood still so when saw the finish point I knew was close to completing my 2015 big challenge.  Wobbly legs wouldn’t run fast but with hearing Liam cheer me from the point he could see was my kayak to seeing him the massive hug was amazing and yes I cried and to proceed to say well what a shit run I had done just under 6 hours it took me everything out of me but even with the poor run i have achieved more than ever done to date over the weekend

I did Coast to Coast in 15:36:06.
Challenge for 2016 is to beat this on my own.

The breakdown of my times for the Rat Race Coast to Coast 2015