Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Turning the Uncle John into a Winter Bike and Commuter Bike

I've had my Planet X Uncle John for maybe 8 years and circumstances have meant that I need a winter training bike for on the roads and can't justify a new purchase so I've spent the last month updating the Uncle John to use as my commuter come winter hack.

The Uncle John has been a fantastic bike over the years. I originally bought it to try some cyclocross racing for a change of scenario over the weekend although realised that the grief I received from my Mum for how much mud was going into her washing machine meant the cyclocross bike stayed more as a summer bike for playing around in the woods and the occasional early 'cross season race whilst conditions were relatively dry.  

Planet X Uncle John ready for xc commuting

My commute gives me the opportunity to ride almost anything I please. I can drop down onto some fantastic flowing woodland singletrack that's well suited to the cyclocross bike, I can even easily find my way onto some gravel tracks or take the fastest route to the office on the roads. For that reason the cyclocross bike has always been great to have.

I've actually considered streamlining the number of bikes I have for a while. My old Kinesis Racelight T winter bike started to develop a number of concerns and being 8 years old it really needed significant amounts of replacement that I might as well have needed to buy a new groupset for the the bike. Therefore the idea of spending a little bit of time, money and TLC on the CX bike to turn it into the ultimate winter bike made sense.

Reflective tape on the handlebars and a Solar Storm  light from eBay

It's amazing what a few additions and replacements can do to a bike. The bolts had started to round off on the FSA Gossamer chainset that came with the bike and I also needed to replace the bottom bracket so opted for a Tiagra Compact Chainset (34/50)

With creaking coming from a lot of places on the bike I opted for a new set of wheels. Picking up a set of Fulcrum Racing 7 LG wheels to be matched with some slightly wider tyres, I swayed between Schwalbe's ultra-reliable Marathon Plus but eventually opted for some Schwalbe Durano Plus tyres with the same obscene level of puncture protection except for a more road specific tread.

A set of SKS Blumels Mudguards have also been fitted and a chunky Lezyne pannier rack I had lying around in storage has finally been fitted although in honesty I don't actually own a pannier bag to use it.

The Mudguards have been a little challenging as the Planet X Uncle John doesn't feature a bridge or screw hole at the chainstays to secure a mudguard. I've had to solve this with the use of a zip tie although as you'll see from the photo below there is now a gap between tyre and guard running in towards the bottom bracket so I'm still on the lookout for solutions to resolve this if anyone has one.

Planet X Uncle John set up for winter road training and commuting 

How does it feel on the roads- Heavy!
I've found that the combination of the relatively heavy Fulcrum Racing 7 LQ wheelset and nearly 500 gram per tyre of Schalbe Durano Plus means that acceleration is hindered. Especially when you add in the additional weight of the pannier rack too. It will be interesting to see just how this affects me over a winter of riding. I'm hoping it's just taking me some time to adjust but it's certainly harder work than I'm used to out on the roads compared to my old Kinesis Racelight T.

My consideration is to change to some lighter tyres after Christmas to see if it adds an extra bit of zip whilst training starts to gear itself towards next seasons races so we will see if that adds better acceleration. At the moment the Uncle John just feels like hard work but hopefully it will pay off.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Dark and White Winter Mountain Bike Orienteering Event 1 Chapel en le Frith

I thought it would be good to try something different this winter. Wanting to ride many of next years Mountain Marathon MTB Series and other mountain bike events but also adding to winter training I saw an advert a while ago for Dark and White Cycling's Winter Trailquest series which features events all over the Peak District. Now know as Mountain Bike Orienteering the idea of navigation and cycling adds a different element to training.

At the start of my first Mountain Bke Orienteering event. Dark and White Winter MBO Round 1

With event 1 being staged in Chapel en le Frith on the Western side of the Peak District we meandered our way over after an early start. I've only ever done one orienteering event in the past at the Red Bull Robin Hood event so it would be intriguing how well I would actually get on. I didn't have high hopes but it's certainly good to keep things fresh and for a little over £15 an event I can't grumble on pricing.

After picking up my event map I had a generous 3 hours to dob as many checkpoints as possible. After a couple of wrong turns in Chapel en le Frith itself I finally found myself on the right minor road out towards Dove Holes after wasting a good 5 minutes trying to find my way but I had at least my first 10 points in the bag.

When I hit the A6 at Dove Holes a navigational error meant that I followed Doveholes Dale in error by going straight across. Looking for the red and white tape along the road I realised my error when it pulled alongside the railway. A quick right then left would likely have solved this at the A6 but cost me valuable time as I had to go out and back to the checkpoint I was looking for to add another 15 points to my tally.

From here things started to look up for a while and I hit my first cross country section along a bridleway from Smalldale across the side of Lodes Marsh laden with muddy puddles and mountain bikers. More points in the bag before climbing the quarry access route up high above the Donkey Sanctuary to Bee Low to nail another set of points along bridleways I've never before ridden.

Dropping back down to the A6 I thought I saw a road off to the right on the map that would help cut out part of the journey up to Blackbrook but it was actually the map showing me the edge of the Peak District National Park. Maybe it's time Ordnance Survey change the colour scheme as talking back at HQ at least one other person made the same error and ended up going up someones driveway.

I ended up back in Chapel en le Frith before cutting up to Blackbrook up what is known as Peaslows or I think used as the Sparrowpit Hill Climb. I was starting to need some sugars so used this as an opportunity to back off a little and take in a Clif bar whilst I climbed up to around 400m above sea level. I hadn't quite expected the level of climbing the event would have.

After gathering another 10 points at Blackbrook I dropped down to Sparrowpit and on to Perryfoot for another quick and easy checkpoint before settling off along the narrow road towards Rushup Edge that forms part of the Pennine Bridleway. Having never ridden the Pennine Bridleway I wasn't sure what to expect. It's certainly rough in places but ride able and after bagging another set of points there was the option of carrying on for a long section along the Pennine Bridleway or dropping down towards the small village of Malcoff. The section of the bridleway looked to pass through a lot of the contours on the map so despite being a 20 point checkpoint it looked a risk in terms of time so I opted to drop down to Malcoff down a field which turned into a rather muddy, slippery track with a gate that had seized up and needed me to lift my bike over.

My next checkpoint came on the edge of Bridgeholme Green before carrying on along Charley Lane and making a monumental mistake. At the crossroads atop Carley Lane I misread the map and thought I was heading west towards Eccles Pike, however I was heading northwest to the Village of Whitehough. Whilst I was drastically off the course I wanted I did catch a glimpse of an amazing beer garden at the Old Hall Inn so all wasn't lost. This is winter training after all.

I managed to nab a checkpoint by the Black Brook near Buxworth before climbing up towards a checkpoint on the outskirts of New Horwich. If I'd had my wits about me I'd have nabbed the checkpoint near Shallcross Hall Farm Too but I was now starting to get conscious of time as I climbed Elnur Lane which just seems to go on upwards.

I swung left towards the top of Elnur Lane dropping down a narrow road to be confronted by a tractor. A quick slam on of the brakes I fortunately managed to stop in sensible time before speeding downhill towards a quick left and right in the village of Combs which also had a great looking pub

I nabbed another checkpoint on the edge of Combs Reservoir before arriving at the main B road into Chapel en le Frith with about 5 minutes to get back to HQ within the 3 hour time limit. That should have been straightforward until a bus pulled up at it's stop and I was left waiting behind for an eternity without an opportunity to pass. The seconds ticked by as the bus pulled off only to get held up by a parked car on the high street and yet more oncoming traffic.

In the end I rolled into HQ 41 seconds late, losing a minuscule 1 point off my 180 points gathered. I'll take that for my first event and definitely something to work on for future. There was also a lot of road type riding at the event, In some ways I could have ridden a less trail specific tyre or even a cyclocross bike more successfully.

I learnt a few things in my first Mountain Bike Orienteering event

  1. I really need a map board for the next event to save me stuffing my map down my bib tights or simply holding it whilst riding
  2. I don't need to rush to hit the first checkpoint. Learning how to best get out of the HQ would be a better idea
  3. I need to eat and drink more. I only had a Clif Bar during a 3 hour event. I should be nailing 400 odd calories an hour for strong riding over the winter
  4. I carried too much with me. I should really be looking at using the back pockets of a jersey instead of a camelback as it certainly doesn't feel as comfortable for me.
Round 2 is at the Longshaw Estate near Bakewell so a little closer to home and with roads I have some knowledge of which hopefully will work in my favour. I loved the Peak District scenery in the area this weekend and somewhere different keeps things fresh over a long winter.

For more info check out http://darkwhitecycling.co.uk/mountain-bike-events/ 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Jemma Does the 2016 Rat Race Coast to Coast

The Coast to Coast 2016 Multisport Event

Jemma's account of the 2016 Rat Race Coast to Coast

For this year big test was the Coast to Coast with myself going solo. After completing the event last year with Liam I wanted to beat my times from back in 2015. Recently my mountain bike skills have improved a lot when compared to last year having taken on a number of red routes at local trail centres and generally getting used to riding my mtb. Coming into the event this had given me an increased confidence boost.

Knowing what to expect from each of the stages we were hoping the weather was kind for us after the previous weekend's extreme conditions for Man V Mountain causing disruption to the planned course after a dissipating hurricane.

Great thing I knew what to expect from start to finish but having better weather conditions last year was hoping to have similar but after previous weekends weather at Man Vs mountain from the dissipated hurricane weather was unsettled to start with a rather cold start.  Opting to wear my Gillet over my cycling outfit was a good move till I got too warm with having only small pockets in the back of my Adidas climacool cycling top I had to hold it for about 4 of the 7 miles run to Cawdor castle.  The run itself is a good mix of trail, single track with little amount of pavement.  With the long stretches of single track with no option to overtake like last year was going as fast as the person in front of you.  I felt I was going an ok pace finally getting to transition getting self all ready for the move was quite smooth.

Once I left the sheltered grounds of Cawdor castle the wind hit me and at that time didn’t know this is the biggest obstacle of the whole weekend.  Small climbs was made ten times worse and finding needing to drink more often than usual.  Handling bike and eating was a no go with the force of the wind. Regular food and drink stops was needed and by the amount of people doing the same I knew wasn’t alone. With around 10 miles to go I just about ran out of water in my backpack and less than a quarter of bottle full of liquid.  This was a concern as I knew there wasn’t any shops on the route I knew of.  Battling quad fatigue where they started to lock up wasn’t what I hoped for.  Stretching out and taking time to eat yet more food and battled on was now seeing signs for Fort Augustus so knew end was in sight for Day 1.

The start of the long final climb I was following a man and for motivation tried to keep him in sight and keep his pace.  Just before the second large incline I lost him but saw a magical campervan with a sign saying water for Rat racers.  This guy was a proper star I stopped to collect water to then start with quad lock again and guy came over to see how I was and filled my water bottle up.  Small chat with others which come to fill water bottles up I took time to have my pork scratchings the salt is definitely what I needed and felt immediately better.  The last part of the climb which I would say was the third incline was rather steep and kept peddling with a few walking up as unable to manage it I got to the top without getting off my bike.  Load cheers from other racers as they saw what I done gave me massive boost and then to be told by Marshalls to watch my speed on my descent down the hill.  The wind again spoiled this last year I went rather fast eying Liam’s line last year with my hand on brakes.  This time no need to use the brakes the wind stopped me going fast as it rolled off the loch into me slowing me down.  Getting to transition and getting my arm and leg warmers off and anything I didn’t want wet for the kayak part which will end my day.  The run was a nice ease out from the battering wind I experienced for the past four or so hours.  The kayak was very windy and I was teamed up with another person and let’s say we was as clueless as each other after either missing buoys or just about taking them out with the kayak got round Loch Ness in one piece to finally get some food inside me and resting up as knew had to have my A game on for day two in any hopes of beating last years’ time my 2016 goal

Cawdor Castle to Fort Augustus cycling. Fort Augustus Kayak Stage st

Day 2 of the Rat Race Coast to Coast

We were also advised the last kayak wasn’t going ahead with the weather being very windy and Rat race have safety as no 1 priority.  I was quite happy about this as last year’s 2nd kayak stage was a long tough one.  My position in the holding pen I knew had gave myself the best chance to get round the 1st tricky off road cycling without waiting too much.

I set off and found a rhythm found to overtake a few people and get overtook by others these mainly been cyclocross bikes. I found myself in a bunch where I managed to keep up in these off road sections but the guy behind me was brake squeaking a lot and could hear his annoyance weather was to myself for the fact got no way of overtaking anyone.  I coped with the switchbacks far better this year with only few times where I had to put foot down as with the experts going through the area the day before and the moist weather was rather churned up.  Knowing there wouldn’t be much flat and stable areas for consume food I took opportunities at key points I know where off road met on road and scoffed as many shot blocks as possible with cherry flapjack.

This ride I felt more confident on the hills I wasn’t stressed and found people walking up and was just powering up (in lowest gears).  One hill I was side of a guy and he didn’t realise how it kicked up after the cattle grid and came right into my path thus stopping my momentum.  Gutted I had to walk the rest way up.  A homemade chia flapjack made me feel better and off I went again.  Managed to even have a conversation with a few people along the way saw some regular Rat racers I knew.  Not a puncture in sight and the closer I was getting to Fort William as I saw the sign I felt rather emotional.  Last year I saw this sign almost broken this year I was ready for my smash and grab at the Esso garage for a sandwich to fuel my mountainous run.  Doing Man Vs Mountain the week before gave me the last bit of prep for this run and felt ready to take it on. 

The transition was placed different this year to last year in a football ground so had to hold my sandwich a bit longer than I thought I would be doing.  Parking up my bike stripping my bike for the remaining food supplies I got changed took off my bib shorts and put on full length bottoms on with my asics running shorts while opted to keep on my cycling jersey and Gillet.  With only 30 mins allowed in transition I started to eat my sandwiches and anything else I saw to eat and found hot drinks also I missed this last year so had a couple of warm milky coffees to help warm me up.  Last toilet stop and away I went ironically enough I bumped into a guy which I had done at the same point last year this year. He complemented on how well and lean I looked well will take that complement and run with that.

The run I started to ease into a rhythm before getting to the 1st lot of hills run what I could and power walk the rest of them.  My progress was a lot better and the weather for a change had taken a change for the better.  The change was that there was times I had people to talk to which I didn’t have last year.  The wind had kept the midges away so that made the run far much better.  The major disappointment was the Epsom Run sense I was using died halfway through the run so didn’t track all my progress but with the official time splits I done major improvements from last years times regarding day 2.  Taking this as a major positive for 2017 goals which still contemplating though at least a Duathlon and an intro to an ultra-race (30 miles) will make an appearance in my Event calendar.

Day Two Strava

Fort Augustus to Fort William cycling Fort William to Kinlochleven
Watch ran out of battery but ran out a total of 14.9 miles was run on this stage and that stage took me 3.14 hours to complete.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Mudguard Review- BBB Grand Protect XL 29er Rear Fender

Winter can be pretty harsh on your bike when you factor in a combination of the traditional British wet weather and living in a heavily forested area like Sherwood Forest. Therefore a degree of protection is in order for riding the mountain bike throughout winter.

For that reason I recently purchased a BBB Grand Protect XL rear mud guard for the 29er Mountain Bike. (BFD-14R). At around a tenner off eBay I decided to take a chance having only ever used one of the original Crud Guard rear fenders on an MTB years ago.

The BBB Grand Protect XL Rear Mudguard BFD-14R on the 29er

I particularly liked the idea of having something I could easily remove for when transporting the bike in the car. The Grand Protect features a quick release easy locking system which is supposedly suitable for seat posts 25.0- 34.9 mm in diameter so should suit the gross majority of bikes. I can also easily transfer it to my cyclocross bike for the occasions when I fancy some protection.

Above is my first attempt at mounting. From a first ride test after heavy rain I found that pretty much all the rear spray that I would be subjected to was removed from mid thigh upwards. The adjust ability of the BBB rear fender means that I should now be able to raise the height of the seat post clamp and angle the fender closer to the bridge between the seat stays for better coverage above the knee.

The Grand Protect is made from a lightweight composite material. The flap itself is relatively sturdy although the connection between clamp and flap is where I feel the mud guard is let down as there is some flex and visible movement whilst riding. It's not noticeable unless you look behind you however a more robust production would help to resolve this and by reducing the vibration sent through the connector I suspect would increase longevity.

After a first 20 mile test ride around the trails of Clumber Estate I was relatively pleased to have a dry behind and the product stayed in exactly the position I originally set it up. It was also barely noticeable whilst riding which bodes well for a winter of abuse.

So far it's doing it's job and for a tenner I cannot grumble too much. Lets see how it copes with a winter of riding as so far my only main issue has been with cyclocross-style dismounts I often clip the top of the mudguard with my leg. 

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Jemma Takes on Snowdon- Man Vs Mountain 2016

Man Vs Mountain 2016- Almost Getting to the Top of Snowdon

Last year I marshaled this event taking the finishers pictures and many happy faces of the achievement for completing Man Vs Mountain. (Often known within the OCR community as MVM)  I made it an aim for me to do 2016 as chances of me able to recover from this and give my best shot for Coast to Coast was slim. Though note last year was a lovely day patchy cloud but on the whole a sunny day.  Fast forward to the race, the notice at registration saying very wet weather.  Mandatory waterproof taped seam bottoms and jacket will be checked before getting our race pack.  This is going to be a re run of Man Vs Lakes and that was 26 odd miles of rain.  Where we decided to stay for our weekend away had very patchy signal on our phones.  Finding a few text messages about the winds and rain to be prepared and extra bag kit checks.  Started to get nervous, making way to the start point we was advised by MC Keith the waves are been held back by half hour as had to change course we wouldn’t summit Snowden due to the rapid heavy winds and our safety.  I 1st decided to wear just my shorts which been running for best part of the spring and summer season with calf guards.  Sonico compression top and purple UA vest top.  With the weather changing by the min I took out my full length Reebok leggings and put them underneath my shorts and ditched the calf guards hoping I had made the right decision I went off to the start line and met up with Luzanne.
The idea was to try and keep a consistent run wherever possible and use my fast power walk for the hill to make sure wasn’t wasting energy.  The run up to the start of the climb up Snowden wasn’t too technical felt ok with the pace was keeping and bumped into a lot of Rat Race regulars which was nice to mix up the running.  Got to brow of a hill heard what I could describe as a random 90s Jukebox (aka phone in a bag) and found this was Tee fellow Team Muddy Race girl which seem to catch up to in a few events this year.  She was taking it easy with the back end of the flu and running the Unknown the weekend after I can understand her taking the backseat and enjoying the views. 
As the started to Climb Snowdon the path was set out was a large loop we had to do and return back.  Large rocks and gravel seemed to be endless and my thanked myself for wear my trusty Race Ultras for the cushioning which was well needed.  Though on some grassy parts where it was waterlogged I could have done with more grip.  But comfort was key in this race.  The wind had really picked up and the puddles started to appear on the paths with the traffic from all the racers those going to the highest point marker and those on the return made things tight.  Everyone was saying well done to each other and sprits was high.  Finally coming to that highest point marker I saw a wedding party have a glass of champers to celebrate hats off to them running in wedding attire no small feat.  My own return back those puddles had now was starting to form streams just shows the amount of rainfall we had.

Making way back to the finish line I know had to drop my backpack off so can complete the Vertical Kilometre.  I opted to keep my Scott jacket on which by the 1st feed station really needed it to protect myself from the elements.  This part of the course I kept my head down and power walked up.  Getting to the top I managed to pass a few people giving me a small boost that not that slow.  Heading back down where I came was presented with the lifejackets for the water jump which I opted out as started to feel as would cramp up and not been a strong swimmer.  Again with the abseil into water I opted out for the same reason.  Getting to through a few pools which I could wade in was ok but the last 25 meters was a swim and no way round thankfully was a rope to use and pull myself across.  The current was very strong and that panicked me a lot and found hard to breathe but managed to get through that.  Collecting my backpack a few obstacles later I had finished I felt glad and ready for my soup.

6 and half hours to get up and down a partial mountain plus extra running feel have achieved a lot and already booked in for 2017 I going to summit Snowden and never know might even beat my time (only hope).  Rest and Recover for the big one Coast to Coast 2016 in a weeks time.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Runstock 2016 - Family Friendly Running Festival

Marshaling and a Few Laps of the Course at Runstock 2016 

Having a Rat Race Season Ticket is great when they announce a new event. It only enhances what great value their season passes genuinely are. (If you're willing to travel and work on the logistics to keep prices down). When they put on a new event it's usually something slightly different. We haven't done a badly organised event from them so we expected big things about their new Runstock family-friendly running festival.

Waiting for the start at Runstock 2016

Friday, 15 July 2016

Rat Race Man V Lakes 2016 - OCR and Morecombe Bay

Last weekend Jemma took on Man V Lakes. A new event for 2016 by Rat race Adventure Sports

Gibralter Farm Campsite looking over Morecombe Bay for Man V Lakes 2016

This is the 1 st ever marathon and furthest I have ever run to date. This distance been on my mind for
some months. Having done my second Dirty Weekend and felt in rather good shape at the end gave
me a small boost that should be able to tackle it. After doing two trail blazer half marathons also did
some longer run training I started to feel a little positive. Till I started getting hip tightness in my
right hip this was effecting running and my strength training at CrossFit. This problem meant I had
to reduce the distances run and brought more stretching exercises in to remedy the problem.

Jemma at the start of Man V Lakes 2016 Rat Race event 

Jemma Does the Rat Race Dirty Weekend 2016

Rat Race Dirty Weekend 2016

Jemma finishing the Rat Race Dirty Weekend 2016

This year coming to the event where I had an idea of the terrain and obstacles was a good thing and a bad thing.  Tried and tested kit depending what the weather was going to be on the day.  With 9 am start the sun was starting brighten up for a great day out on course.   I decided that I would use my Inov-8 X-talons with my Sonico compression top.  Compression calf guards with a pair of ¾ Capri bottoms.  This suited me well as the calf guards seem to help when in the water as I seem to cramp a lot while in water for some reason.  We was advised there would be a change of course and wouldn’t see the water sections till around mile 6 unlike last year had at mile 4.  The water sections are for me weakest thing and found a big struggle to do last year.  Knowing I am not a strong swimmer which I am lucky to do 100 meters at best.  This would certainly be a more mental challenge for me to overcome.

The Crossing Rat Race Review 2016 Whitehaven to Scarborough

The Crossing 2016 Whitehaven to Scarborough on Mountain Bike

Me and My Radon ZR Race 29er in Whitehaven for The Crossing Rat Race 2016

Before the leg break 2015 for me was supposed to be focused on doing some different things. The Crossing Rat Race event was supposed to be one of those things. 200 miles (or thereabouts) coast to coast on Mountain Bike across the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. It sounded pretty epic for a weekend riding my bike so had to be carried over to 2016.

I can see the appeal of a coast to coast adventure. Nottingham is pretty much the furthest of anywhere in the UK from the sea which is probably why we seem to flock their en masse. The sad scenario is we flock to the dive that is Skegness . The chance to dip our wheels in the sea at Whitehaven and then three muddy days later in Scarborough is pretty glamorous in comparison.

The Crossing Rat Race Review 2016 Whitehaven to Scarborough

The Crossing 2016 Whitehaven to Scarborough on Mountain Bike

Me and My Radon ZR Race 29er in Whitehaven for The Crossing Rat Race 2016

Before the leg break 2015 for me was supposed to be focused on doing some different things. The Crossing Rat Race event was supposed to be one of those things. 200 miles (or thereabouts) coast to coast on Mountain Bike across the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. It sounded pretty epic for a weekend riding my bike so had to be carried over to 2016.

I can see the appeal of a coast to coast adventure. Nottingham is pretty much the furthest of anywhere in the UK from the sea which is probably why we seem to flock their en masse. The sad scenario is we flock to the dive that is Skegness . The chance to dip our wheels in the sea at Whitehaven and then three muddy days later in Scarborough is pretty glamorous in comparison.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Up to Traquair House for The Mighty Deerstalker

The Deerstalker is the first Rat race event of their calendar and after last year’s enjoyment was looking forward to going back and having another crack at it.  This time Liam gets to play on the course and see what he thought of it.  With me continually running outside all winter which is considerable more than this time last year I was aiming to do a good performance and enjoy the views.  

It had been said that was snow on the ground a week before the event which got me worried would my trusty Sondico compression top be warm enough?  I decided to purchase some cold gear clothing there are many brands floating about the OCR scene and with my body shape keeping on changing with my intensive CrossFit winter training I went with Under Armour woman’s cold gear compression roll neck top.  It seems after the Dirty weekend I suffered with water and calf cramps I am now accustomed to wearing calf compression sleeves and these are perfect.  At this moment in time I am using Skins branded ones.   For the last two years of racing I have used a pair of New Balance Capri bottoms as dubbed “racing bottoms” which sadly no longer fit properly so  This year I have a new pair of Capri bottoms from Karrimore in a Jemma friendly dark purple colour with a perfect zip pocket in the back for a gel too. 

A first for this year we drove up to Innerleithen as a trio. As our friend Mark who likes to marshal decided he wanted to join us on a trip up north and was placed on the finish line.  Liam was booked onto the 1st wave and me the 2nd wave so I got to see him off as such and cheer (nice to give myself the illusion I am going to chase and catch up).  I got a different head torch this year from last year which in the night run tests seemed to do the job  though on the packaging didn’t give me how many lumens bright it was (oh dear).  As we I got started finding a pace we came to a field of sticky mud which I managed to almost lose my shoe last year.  Doing a fast pace as best I could again the same thing happened again and trying to get my shoe back on in a sea of runners was hard going.  Which meant at the river under the tunnel crossing I was at a back of a cue?  With the stronger currents we were to go in twos and that cold water just hits you.  No sooner as you get out back to running again and knew would need to warm back up again as the climb up would be a killer.  

Going up the familiar hills was no easier than it was in 2015 but as the sun sets the torches came on.  We were advised there were course changes from last year due to the forestry commission doing felling works.

One major difference this year was treated to halfway round a disco rave in the woods with lights, smoke and music which did bring a smile to my face.  With time pressing on and the usual single file parts of the course started to notice my head torch wasn’t as bright as it once was and this didn’t come too apparent to till the scramble up the scree has started to find it hard to see where I was and finally got to the top i made a slow decent down as couldn’t see too far in front where to put my footing.  This was fine as gave me chance to catch my breath and enjoy the spectacular views.  

Coming to the end of the course we was treated to the sliding finish which most people seem to enjoy bar me don’t know what it is water and slides just don’t seem to hold that fun factor as once did in my younger years but was happy to finish yes slower than last year but with 2016 course feeling like the big brother course to 2015 course.  Only downside this year is where is my Frontier Beer? As that’s a much better pint than Coors light sorry Van Damme it just is!

Liam's Mighty Deerstalker 2016 on Strava

Jemma Takes on the Spring Ram Run

After Marshalling for 2015 autumn ram Run I got to see and play on the course myself as a payment for giving muddy hugs.  I wasn’t disappointed one bit I opted for the Sunday run at 24km giving me good distance in my legs for Rat Race dirty weekend which is fast approaching.  I do like how it’s all been organised.  I went in the Fun runner’s category which started 1st before the trophy hunters eventually would catch us up and overtake.  The 12km wave was then set off midday with the idea we should all start to finish around the same time and can enjoy more of the after race events.  This I think should where possible adopted elsewhere.

Coming to this race the only worry on my mind was the chest/head flu I had just recently get rid of had left me with a persistent cough and my running miles beforehand considerable reduced almost similar thing happened to me when doing 2015 Deerstalker race. I was aware this course is making use of the natural environment and its obstacles with others which was man made.  Some of these man made obstacle came in the shape and form of approx. metre high yellow hurdles which you jump over which also was used as course markers wherever possible I estimate I saw over 50 + of the now known as Little Yellow Bastards.  The 1st 12km loop these was a sore point till fatigue set in on the 2nd loop round and these LYB could have been two metres tall for how you felt getting over them.  Kudos to the Iain and the team for those.  With farmers spraying fields with fertilizer we didn’t have to swim in the river like I saw in the autumn ram run which was great fully pleased for but instead  had to shimmy across bridges with rope which was tricky as with MHSOF knew if you fell was onto concrete but falling into water wasn’t something I wanted to happen.

The man made obstacles wasn’t easy we had varying types of walls to complete in different heights too and the inverted wall one which was for the mere mortals aka fun runner and a massive something like 8 ft one for those trophy hunters was good thing to get teeth stuck into or my case have my bum shoved up and over.  By the 2nd lap I about mastered the run and launch self over wrapped hay bales which was something nearly 4 ft tall with larger one for the trophy hunters.  The rig which was the new creation as the spring ram run is the 1st one where you could get qualifier for the OCR championships later in the year so this rig to complete was a must.   Thankfully for my level I was able to get across the parallel bars and crawl under cargo net quite well but hats off to the guys who had the harder section to complete without touching the floor.

The course personally thought was well marked with marshals at every point would want to see one and they was armed with enough haribo sweets to keep any runner happy.  There was reasonably priced food and drink at the end of the event which was still serving hot fresh food right to the very end which some events been too in the past started to pack up before the last runners have come through.  The biggest bouns there was showers to clean up at the end as been one of the last runners I didn’t experience cues for these magical showers and got hot water.  (the boiler must have just heated back up).  This alone makes me want to come back again.  If was running both days there was optional free camping and an event where free car parking on hardstanding floor is great for the inclusive price tag will I be back again defiantly and recommend this to any OCR or newbie runner 

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Jemma Tackles the Endurer Dash Sherwood Pines- A Review

Endurer events popped up advertising a new location right near home- so close an opportunity not to be missed at Sherwood Pines. By December last year had convinced a few girls from Crossfit Hexis to join me. Though it came to race day and ended up just being me at the start line. I am used to that and it meant I could just plough on ahead and see what this event company had to offer.

I had heard that the Endurer event company put cracking events up in the Peak District and should be by now a well-oiled event.  I turned up at the Endurer well early before I was due to run.  The plan was sign up go back to car put my Talons on and get self all ready but.I have not seen a queue so bad at an event before. I arrived around 9.45 and the 10:30 wave were not even signed on yet. This got me wondering if they can’t get registration right what’s the race going to be like?  By 10:15 I finally got to get my chip and bib number.  At First look my chip was a wrist strap that was far too big for me.  Though was later pointed out by Muddy Duck aka Alan that should put on my leg so now look like a runner who was let out of jail on tag.

The Queue to Register Really Gave a Very Bad Impression of Endurer Dash Event Management

At this point I saw Liam who was fresh from the muddy trails of Sherwood pines and already talking to some OCR regulars we know.  Once I got my x-talons on and other bits I needed and Liam got my keys for safety I felt a little better.  Though no key drop which would been nice for those who wasn’t in a group.  As the fear of losing your car key could easily happen.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Choosing Tyres for the Dirty Reiver- Continental Cyclocross Speed

The Search for All-Round Tyres for a Gravel Event

I've had a bit of a quandary recently , after signing up for the Dirty Reiver, one of the UK's first gravel grinder events. Gravel Grinder events are popular in the USA where vast areas in some states feature dirt roads. A little like what we see in Europe at races like the Strade Bianche in Italy as featured below. The Dirty Reiver promises a 200 kilometer gravel road event around Kielder and potential across the Scottish border in an area where there will be plenty of climbing. What tyres should I ride?

The USA has Gravel Grinder events popping up all over although the Dirty Kanza is one of the oldest and arguably one of the best of these events. A 200 mile gravel epic over some of the rural gravel roads of Kansas. The roads are rugged and the racing tough. Events like these have started to spawn the Gravel Bike industry although as gravel riding has been around for years many people will tell you that you can adapt a bike relatively easily for gravel racing.

My big quandary has been tyre choice for a gravel riding event and what bike to use. The options really have been between the 29er hardtail or the cyclocross bike and based on the length of the event I'm inclined to go for the cyclocross bike which I can happily ride for extended periods of time and I feel quicker on when I'm hitting the fire roads around Sherwood Forest. I seem to keep appearing on Strava leaderboards for sections I never knew existed around the local tracks and trails so either the local mountain bikers aren't particularly fast on certain sections or the cyclocross bike must have the edge because put me in a cx race and I'm nowhere near the front.

Over the last couple of years I've mainly used my old Planet X Uncle John cyclocross bike as more of a winter do it all bike to explore the local trails which Sherwood Forest has aplenty. As well as being able to do a 40-odd mile round trip including a lap of the 'red' route at Sherwood Pines overtaking the odd mountain biker and giving them a shock along the way. I recently replaced an old Challenge Grifo Pro tyre with a spare Specialized Houfalize but my worry has been that they might not be ideal for the Dirty Reiver with the organisers recommending a minimum 33mm tyre. 200 km of gravel roads demand some longevity and something quicker rolling judging by a lot of American gravel riding websites. I love the Houfalize and still may put a spare in my rucksack to take with me as a just in case. They do most things well unless it starts to get gloopy. I love them for riding in the woods throughout summer and most of winter.

Eventually a narrowed my choices down to the Schwalbe CX Comp (Good value for money, semi slick profile and a kevlar bead though on the heavy side) and Clement MSO (Awesome tyre for gravel apparently but friggin expensive for a one off event in my eyes) and Challenge Gravel Grinder (Which Planet X were selling for £15 up until the day I got paid!) However after a recommendation from the ridingagainstthegrain blog I've opted for the Continental Cyclocross Speed tyre.

Continental Cylocross Speed Tire- A tyre that should work well on gravel roads

Why the Continental Cyclocross Speed?

I mainly use my cx bike as a bit of an all-rounder and with my current winter bike starting to creak, shudder and coming across like it's on deaths door after 8 years of harsh British winter riding the plan is to turn my Planet X Uncle John into my winter bike. Unlike many cyclocross bikes it has bottle bossess and braze-ons for mudguards whilst I feel comfortable riding it over the rough stuff in the forest which should make riding it for distances on the road a breeze.

The Cyclocross speed looks to be a good summer do-it-all tyre. I picked up 2 tyres for less than £20 so if they only last me a summer of riding I've not really lost out. My current favourite commute home from work is on some cinder type paths and rugged rural bridleways which I believe a semi-slick tyre should cope well with and once the ground dries out I should be able to throw them around on the local singletrack too as I'm hoping to race some cyclocross in 2016.

For £8.75 a tyre I've picked up a fast, dry conditions cyclocross tyre that should be ideal on the local trails with little mud. The 35mm width should take off some of the edge on the rougher stuff- I'll likely try it out up at the Sherwood Pines Red Route when it dries off as it presently needs some more significant grip to get around. If someone is look for gravel event or race tyres they are also available in a 42mm wide format if your frame has the clearance. I wasn't sure my Uncle John has that much room so went for the 35 mm version.

The Continental Cyclocross Speed Tread Pattern

Whilst I can't find details online about puncture protection level of the Cyclocross Speed but having a triple ply casing means there's three layers of protection. Weight is a reasonable 420 grams per tyre in the wire beaded version with 350 grams for the folding variety.

How did they perform at the Dirty Reiver

Pretty well with the exception of a couple of sections of muddy bridleway and rough downhills that were crying out for something with a little more casing size. The 35mm wide profile was adequate for the majority of the conditions. 

I had one puncture during the Dirty Reiver. I was running around 50 psi as a trade off between comfort and speed but hit a rock ledge hard on a rugged downhill section after about 40 miles of the course but there were a lot of punctures on course. I found a track pump available at the next pit stop and promptly went up to 60 psi as a precaution.

The semi-slick tread rolls quickly on roads and forest tracks whilst the outer tread has enough to dig in on slightly loose corners. Having used the Cyclocross Speed's over the course I'm not sure I'd have been any quicker with a different tyre although maybe a slightly bigger casing would have given some more comfort over the 200km course.

Back at home they've been a great summer cx play tyre. Absolutely adequate for a summer blast round the red route at Sherwood Pines or Clumber Park. They're also perfect for the local canal towpaths and fire roads too.