Sunday, 29 September 2013

Ferryhill Two Stage Hill Climb, Bolam

The common book of cycling prayer has a nice quote. It goes something like... 'a hill-climber's life is short and full of woe. He cometh up in a small gear and is cut down like a flower when the results are published'.... The shortest event in the cycling time trial calendar, hill climbing is probably only for the hard core. It's an adventure in anaerobic suffering. It might last 3 or 8 minutes but rarely longer.

Its naïve to think you can jump sports without putting in the hours, but as long as you don't take things too seriously, its possible to get involved without making a fool of yourself. Unlike the running world, where you can rock up to most events and enter on the day, the cycling powers of B have determined that you have to pre-enter this type of race. I've had to commit therefore to a number of events well in advance of knowing how good or otherwise things might go.

Last week was a short hill climb in Northumberland. It was a day after I had panned myself at a fell run and it went poorly I suppose. Today I found myself warming up on a mile climb south of West Auckland in County Durham. It was two stage hill climb time trial. The first hill was at 11am and a second climb of a different hill was scheduled for 1pm. Riders set off at one minute intervals.

I rode 3 miles down to the start with a lad from Manchester and had a good natter. As I was fourth off, I checked out the hill, riding up it once and then went back down and lined up. The objective was not to feel as bad as I felt last week. As the lactic builds and you force yourself up-gradient its an effort to keep a smooth rhythm.  Its a battle between you and the hill and you have to conquer it without parking up and waiting for the bus or grabbing the next riders jersey for a tug as they fly by. 

The first hill, Brussleton Bank, was a mile long with a steep incline in the middle. The tarmac surfacing was poor and it was twisty-turny. I grafted up and up and looked for an even cadence but to no avail and finished just under 6 minutes. As I sucked in the air, I wondered if I could have run it quicker. 'No' is the answer.  I was lying 19th as the results were posted back at the Countryman pub, the HQ for the event in Bolam.  I had a piece of flapjack and reclined in the car working out my strategy for Stage 2. It was easy... 'Go faster'.

The pub car park was beginning to fill up as I got back on the bike and rode down toward Ingleton village. Normal folk going for their roast.  I felt hungry as the smell of hot food filled the air. 

The second hill was long with a sharp climb about a quarter of the way up, but from then on, the gradients were forgiving with two long easy straights ahead. We also had a tailwind and the tarmac was smooth. I felt stronger and more confident as I wellied my way to the finish. My time for a similar distance was about the same and I finished 18th. 

One of the side effects of this sort of exertion is a dry cough, not dissimilar to what you get when you run 200 or 400m, and there was plenty of it as the event drew to a close with the presentation from Ferryhill Wheelers. The season is short, but this sort of affair is a nice change from the usual pavement pounding.     


Sunday, 22 September 2013

GS Metro Hill Climb 2013

Super Sunday followed Satisfactory Saturday. The GS Metro hill climb on Hedley on the Hill was todays target. Its been a good few years since I entered a fully fledged open cycle road race, but this was the nearest I will probably come this year to racing on the road. The fifty quid I rashly splashed out for a British Cycling road licence in March was probably premature. Never mind.

The Metro event is actually a short time trial. There were 40 runners and riders and it was just over a mile, all uphill, with gradients of between 6 and 12 percent or degrees (I never quite know what the measurement is); all I know is that the air gets thinner as your heart rate hits the roof, moves up to the attic and bursts out of the chimney stack with soot all over its face.

I was off number 7 and with both other v50's ahead of me, I had no idea how I'd do. Yesterday's exertion probably counted for something. As it was, the hill wasn't too severe and it took me 6m:20secs to get from start to finish with a little band of supporters shouting near the top to gee you up. Finished 10 seconds down from the winner of the category and 1 second ahead of the other rider, so I didn't disgrace myself. My official photographer even got an all action snap as proof of forward (and not sideways) motion. By the end I was breathing out my 'ears' (re-arrange letters for the truth) and finished, letting the bike roll on for a good 300 yards gulping in huge lungworms of  Northumberland air.
Look in next week for another stalling performance.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Simonside Fell Race 2013: Thropton Show

Target one this month was the Simonside Fell Race. A six mile race through fields, forest and crags and 1200ft of climb, its an autumnal extravaganza that forms part of the Thropton Country Show.  You can be sure of a good crowd at the end. They gather on either side of the finishing tape to watch these 'fell running types' murder themselves trying to shave seconds and places off the years previous performance.  I was one of those 'fell running types'.

It's one of the North East Fell Running Championship counters this year, and with two wins out of two in the old mans category, I didn’t want to relinquish my miserly stranglehold on this lucrative competition...I think there’s a medal at the end. The competition to date has been from Burn of Durham Fell Runners and Smith of Saltwell. There were a few incomers though and seeing Morgan Donnelly sitting on the grass as I entered the show ground, I thought it would be an interesting field. 

Me and the missus had, earlier in the day, entered some of the shows other competitions. She had submitted lemon curd, plum jam, chocolate cake and scones for scrutiny. I had collected 8 photos from around the house and put them in. One or two were from last years trip to Paris and Amiens and I thought they had a chance in their particular category.    

Back to the fell race, and I only managed to get to the line in time, fannying around the car putting on my number.  I took the ipod, but as it transpired, I didn’t need it.

Around a hundred runners set off and we made our way past the Cross Keys Pub and then through the wide, shallow Coquet. I had started steady and made my way slowly up the climb through the fields and up to Great Tosson. I passed Burn and then spied NFR's Scott Gibson and a Pudsey and Bramley runner ahead. As the gradient steepened south of Tosson Farm I tucked in behind the tall, rangey NFR runner,  providing a steady pace up through the forest. In doing so we passed Pudsey's Mcintosh but he didn’t drop back and as we exited the forest and made our way up the vertical gritstone staircase through the crags of High Point, he was still there. 

There is a short trot across the top of the ridge then it all back down again and it didn’t take Pudsey man anytime to show his superior descending skill and overhaul both of us. He ploughed on with intent and a lengthening stride back into the woods.

I upped the pace and tried to stick with him, but through the twists and turns he was making metres at a time. We quickly picked up Alnwick runner Jo Gascoine Owen, winner of the Hawskhead trail race who had been well up the road in the ascent with clubmate Bruce Crombie.  Not long after, as the reeds and ferns covered the slippy surfaces, I went down like a sack of sheet, but was straight back up and still only around 20 metres behind Pudsey. I was working at max though, but happy to stay at that distance leaving the man ahead to spend vital seconds finding the best route and in one or two places, looking desperately for the marker tape.  As we came out of the forest he went left instead of right, but soon realised his error and tucked in behind me as we came back down through Tosson, passing me again just before the river crossing. We were elbow to elbow coming along the road but I couldn’t match his acceleration as we entered the showground and he finished comfortably ahead.

I had a good wretch afterwards. This seems to be a new feature of recent hard runs and not at all to be encouraged.  Still, it was a top ten finish and there were a couple of bottles of Becks for 1st vet 50, so a good if tough afternoon in the hills.

Happy to report a first and a third in the photograph competition as well. No prizes though for the jams and cakes. Can't have it all, eh?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Teespride Review

I've been doon the big smoke to see the young 'un competing at the world aquathlon championships (well...proud parents prerogative). A 1km swim and a 5k run. Watching all the coming and going made me want to be 30 years younger.  Looking through the photos I took, I thought this one was a laugh (Giant hand pushes in flagpole...not my hand).
Alas,it was over all too quickly and I'm now sat here on the train coming north from London.  My wallets empty and its begun to rain out the window, so we must be going north...
Not one to waste time blogging, I have time as we sit waiting for a train ahead to get itself sorted out, to critically review my performance at last weekends Teespride 10k. Let me start by saying that I could have gone faster and finished stronger toward the end where my pace dropped off from sub-six to six eleven for the last mile.  I say I could have gone faster, but that was really just in my head. My legs and lungs were working at max, little sacks of fleshy bellows sucking in the clean Middlesbrough air! I spent time trying to fend off those johnny-come-lately Teesside based vets who had the cheek to come past in the last mile. Before that, I was moving well over the flat course, the breathing not too laboured.
The Council had closed the road, so it was a stress free, car free circuit that wound its way out of Acklam and down Marton Road. I think we passed Clairville stadium in the final stages, although I couldn’t find the spare energy to turn my head right to see if they’ve pulled it down to erect more houses.  Waste of a perfectly good athletics facility with velodrome.

It was a proper big event with chip timing and a field just short of two thousand.  The sun was out and hardly a drop of wind.  The event was well supported with crowds at junctions and a few had dug out their deck chairs and were sitting on the pavement or at the bottom of their drives. The course kept runners away from the more industrial hinterlands so we didn’t quite get the full ‘Boro' experience.  The bands who were playing music around the course added a cosmopolitan air to the whole affair. The course was fast but not quite fast enough for a sub 37. A goodie bag at the end with a T- shirt, medal and a Frisbee which I threw away.... 
Not sure what's on this weekend. Need to have a look at the racing calendar.