Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sunderland Clarion Hill Climb 2014

The winner of today’s Sunderland Clarion Hill Climb was Michael Openshaw. Name rings a bell? This former runner, born in 1972, has a 5000m time of 13.24 and a p.b. 10k time of 29:22. He’s puts his hand to cycling with Cestria CC now. Nice transition.

Hill climbs are all about altitude. While his time was near stellar, mine was a more pokey, subterranean affair. It really is odd that I can bury myself to finish nearly last on a bike. When I run, I can sometimes manage a top ten finish with the same effort. However, I like cycling. Much easier on the body. The joints can have a day off. Get to wear stylish lycra and pose around on bikes with nice paint jobs. Miss the burn of running though and its about to make a comeback. 

For a second time in a row, I was off No.13. Someone has it informee. Informee. Yes, Frankie Howard, blah, blah.......

Even in such a specialist pursuit like hill climbing, it’s remarkable how different a course can be, how the gradients, road surface, twists and turns, suit some more than others. For me, today’s event was a behemoth of a hill. A dinosaur. A big long drag with 3 steep inclines and 3 or 4 false flats (whatever they are) where you can grab some air. But in hill climbing, if you can grab some air, you’re just not trying hard enough. It’s a discipline with the tightest margins where you’re aiming to hit your aerobic ceiling. That ceiling is as fine as gossamer. Too much effort and you put yourself into the red zone; for hill climbing, the dead zone, where speed becomes hindered and strange things like tunnel vision begin to happen.

Today it was a long hard pull up a 2 mile hill. I dug out the Condor which has a small ratio gear cassette at the back; but on closer inspection, I stuck it back in the car and pulled out the Wilier.
On a warm up, the gears jumped a few times and I realised it needs another bit of adjusting. These Italian machines are annoyingly temperamental. Soon at the start, I was off and plugging away up the first kick-up and past the Nursery car park being used as race HQ. I was in the big ring for a wee while, then it was down onto the small ring. There was a couple of huddles of club cyclists on the way up, but quiet compared to last week. I was soon up onto the ridge and catching my breath, whacked it into a bigger gear and made for the line. Time 10:03; Four seconds off what I had hoped, but it was what it was, and I rode another 3 or 4 miles to cool down. The presentation recognised us older types and it was £15 in notes for 2nd V50. I think there were only three.
The young pretender Openshaw waltzed up the climbin 7.40 something. I like to get my moneys’ worth!!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

GS Metro Hill Climb

Last Year, GS metro’s Hill Climb time trial event was one hill. A real toughie. This year, it was a two stage-two hill affair, based again at the Feathers Pub. Over the last 3 weeks the sport and training has taken a bit of a back seat for one or two family reasons, so I was happy to be driving up into the fringes of the Pennines at Hedley on the Hill to test myself on this event.


I picked up my number (13) and didn’t have long before I was due to start. It was fair to say I hadn’t really warmed up properly. I should have known better. One thing riding up a steep hill, flat out, will do, It'll will have your heart bulging like Jim Careys eyes in ‘The Mask’, with arteries and valves playing trombones in a cartoon fashion. Bit distorted, like the cheeks of the star trek crew in a worm hole.
I started far too quickly and spent the rest of the mile in oxygen debt. It was a pitiful display of naivety. I was on my knees halfway up. No rhythm. Crawled over the line in a pool of anaerobic stew. My time was well over 6 minutes. On reflection, I might have ran up it faster.

After a cup of coffee outside the pub, we were set for the second hill up from Mickely. I rode the 2 miles to the start and decided I was just going to ride up it as I would any hill. I had to get a grip. 

There were plenty of locals watching on the bank, a good thing to get the old folk out of their modest bungalows. They were very shouty, which was good, and as I set off, I gave them a smile and a wave. Get me...Mr Casual. A stark contrast to this morning. The ride was shorter, but my effort much more measured and I finished in a much more respectable 4:17 for 0.8 miles. Gravity. Who needs it!
Tidy event organised by them lads at Metro. Next weekend is Silverhill and the week later Claybank. Might then be fit enough to run at Manor Water. Here’s hoping.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Shout if you want to go faster

He was slow; but in his mind he rode like the wind.... 
This blog kicked off in 2007. I thought a 5 year lifespan would be a reasonable stab at things. It’s now 2014. Things change. Life is dynamic. None of us have ever been Here before. As a Scot living in Northumberland, current affairs have never been more interesting. But I don’t get to vote, so I’ll just have to blog about my latest sporting exploits, instead.

The Cleveland Wheelers 10 mile time trial was my first out-and-out time trial in a long time. It’s held on a circuit around Stokesley on the northern extremity of North Yorkshire.
Part of the course was where I competed when I was a junior. A field of 40 had entered this late season extravaganza. On the day, I turned up an hour too early and sat reminiscing about the 60 minutes I could have had, unconscious, in bed. The idea is to get around the 10 miles as fast as possible. For some, that’s a touch over 18 minutes. I once did 23 minutes. Not in competition though. These days anything below 27 minutes would be fine; 26 would be good; 25 better still.
There are modest prizes for the fastest.There was also a handicap competition. In the start sheet, I found that my handicap was a generous 6 minutes. I warmed up and kicked off at 9.24 am. The course was undulating and with a slight tailwind, progress was good and I was soon in sight of the lad ahead. He had set off a minute earlier and was riding for the local club, Fiesten Tempo. Near the 5 mile mark I had nearly caught him, but held off, riding 50 metres behind. I was then caught and passed by the guy behind me.
As we hit the last 4 miles, the tarmac was as rough as it gets on an A=class road and the Fiesty temp lad in front sailed off ahead with his fancy bars and pixie helmet and all that aero-dynamic gear (you might have guessed that I had turned up with the bog standard road bike). He didn’t get too far ahead, though, and at the end, I had landed in 27 minutes. Pretty poor, I thought.
I landed a cup of tea and several slices of cake at the village hall and then; surprise...third prize in the handicap and 20th of 30 riders. The winning time was considered to be 2 or 3 minutes slower than the fastest courses. One rider described it as a sporting course. The 2nd place rider who was riding off scratch said he wouldn’t be riding it next year. Sour grapes. I was on reflection, quite chirpy with my ride.
Next season I’ll do a few more, maybe buy some fancy, outlandish looking gear and choose some faster courses. The cyclo-cross bike is considering its position after I found out it had an almost seized bottom bracket....probably didn’t appreciate being dipped in the lake at Foxbar or sprayed with a pressure hose last year. Just need to find time now to get out and start running again. It’s been a sub- 15 mile/week month on that front and I need to get my act together. Don’t want the competition, all those oldies, to get above themselves!!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Epic Ride

I'm always harping on about getting on and doing stuff. My favourite line is 'life is not a spectator sport' as I turn off the television. In the early 80's at the end of term, I jumped on my bike and attempted to ride from Dundee to Guisborough.  I was in the flush of youth and no doubt didn't think the whole thing through: 234 miles in a day is a little unrealistic. However, I did get to Berwick after the wheels fell off (not literally) at Coldstream. I like to dust off the story periodically when brinkmanship in the category of 'mental things I did', arises. It was still a misguided 126 mile effort. I hiked the rest of the way in the cab of a lorry with the bike in the back. Ah, those were the days.

This time around, 32 years later, I was up to my old tricks again. With a day off work, and the forecast good,  I checked out the train times and booked a ticket for £12 to Waverley. An hour and a half later, I was good to go and went. I had made some brief notes as to the route the previous night and knew I didn't want to ride on the A1 at any time. I had no cereal bars in the house, but there was a packet of Sainsbury's 5 oatmeal and raisin cookies. I went to get one, and then reconsidered... I took the whole packet.

I made good progress past Musselburgh and Cockenzie, but had my first run in with a blue corsa who thought it was good sport to try and accelerate past me at an island in the road. My language was blue, even as I saw the donkey pull in to the caravan park just past the pans, but I didn't stop for a spot of confrontation. Before I knew it I was asking for directions in Haddington but was soon moving on to East Linton and Dunbar with Traprain ahead of me. A sneaky wee climb around the front of it. I began to see sign posts for cycle route 76. I began to deviate a little from my notes in favour of the signs, not fully knowing the terrain that this route crossed. I began to wonder however, if this was a sensible strategy as it took me around the back of the Cement works and landfill site on a gravelly track. The new road bike was not designed for cross country and I prayed that I didn't get a puncture.

I had had a cookie going up in the train, then another after one hour and a third after two hours, where I had covered around 40 miles.

After getting back on the road at Torness, the route takes you down Pease Bay. The road was good, but it sure was lumpy as the road takes you up a short steep hill, then a long steep hill to the huge windfarm. I was still clipping along but short of juice. I knew I was getting a dehydrated and took a wrong turn arriving at Coldingham where I got some more directions and was soon back on course.
My fourth cookie came out and without water I was beginning to tire of the available victuals. However, I was pretty happy to have brought them.

I by-passed Berwick altogether and crossed the A1 to get to Spittal. I had ridden 65miles by then and knew I was in for a longer ride than anticipated. The track from Spittal to Goswick was very poor; alright I suppose if you had a mountain bike. A bloke out for a walk commented 'you don't want to take that bike on these tracks'.
 'Tell me about it', I said, relying on my cyclo cross experience to get me back on track at Holy Island. I had begun to follow signs for Cycle Route 1.

I knew I had to stop to refuel, so stopped at the first sign of civilisation, which was the Barn at Beal. Soup, cake, juice and tea. £9. and lots of free salt which I lathered onto everything.

After half an hour I was off again and moving well. There was a light wind coming in off the coast as I continued south past Bamburgh, Seahouses and Howick. My left tricep began to cramp a little, and then later both of them. My hands were a bit sore as well, but the legs happy as larry. I had ditched following the Cycle Route signs sometime around here.

It was now all plain sailing as reaching Alnmouth, I knew all the roads south of here. I stopped at Amble for some juice and as the early evening sun began to wane, I put the lights on and got to 'Peth after 8 hours of riding, 133 miles and 4500ft of climbing. Epic.