Wednesday, 25 May 2011


Had a great run into work yesterday.

Wind had died back to a light breeze, weather was mild but fresh. Feet felt light, despite a heavier than normal rucksack.

Cruised around Roundhay Park lake, which had more runners out than normal. I know it is childish, and not a race, but I do like playing "hunt the runner in front of me", trying to reel them in as quickly as possible.

Surprised that I don't seem to have lost too much speed, despite not running a great deal in the last month. Ace.

Brilliant tingly endorphins saw me through a crazy day of "this job is more urgent than your current really urgent job, but they both need to be done today" type stuff.


Turns out that I'm already doing the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon on the first weekend in July.

Ah well... will have to have a look around for another race later in the year.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


I'm becoming increasingly aware that some of my targets for this year are getting closer. And my main target is still an extremely scary prospect.
To recap, it is a Coast-to-Coast race, across Scotland It mixes on and off road cycling, trail running and a little bit of kayaking. Non stop. Not only do I want to complete it, I want to complete it having felt like I've done as well as I can. Feeling like I competed. I'm under no illusions about winning or anything, but I want to put in a good show.
So. Training... it's been there. I've done a fair bit. But it hasn't been as structured as it should be, and it hasn't been as regular either. I've bouts of very good, very focused training. But then weeks where things have fallen apart. I've felt myself reach levels of fitness that I've not had for a few years, then drifted back to something nearer "average". Much of this has been linked to my moods. When I've been down, it has often been so hard to force myself out. The prospect of doing something just felt way too big. I've packed my bag, got everything ready to run to work, then shrunk inside myself, changed into my work clothes and hopped on the bus. I've then beaten myself up about it. I don't understand. It is one of the things I concentrated on with my CBT... the almost self-destructive tendency to hide from the one thing that will actually make me feel better. It annoys me that I still let myself beat me sometimes.
Positive approach:
-Go for a run or ride
-Enjoy the experience, because I always do
-Feel better afterwards, because I get all the lovely endorphins
-Feel better because I know I'm getting fitter and it's a step towards my goals
-Feel better because I don't feel like I've got a "chore" hanging over me
Or the Tom approach:
-Think I must go for a run or ride
-Feel "heavy" feeling. Forget that this is a good thing
-Feel like I must go. Feel a bit trapped.
-Try to escape the trapped feeling. Decide not to go.
-Feel bad about that decision.
-Decide I will go.
-End up feeling tired from all the thinking.
-Sometimes go and remember how good it is.
-Sometimes don't, then feel guilty for being rubbish. Miss the endorphins. Hide away.
Once I've got out a few times in a row, then all is good, I rediscover the motivation. I enjoy life so much more.
But... anyway. I'm feeling inspired by Pyllon today. I think I might enter my first ever ultra-marathon. Actually it'll be my first ever running race that is 26miles or longer. I've run the distance plenty of times, just for the sake of running, but never felt the motivation to race. I'm thinking about the Osmotherley Phoenix, on July 2nd. I need to check my diary, but I think I'm free. 33 miles, so not a huge amount further than a normal marathon. But it is trail running, and it includes 4000ft of climb. I think it'll be suitably hard. Looking forward. A lot.
Better get training :-)

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, 23 May 2011

Blowing away Monday cobwebs

Now, THAT was a ride. Wind pushing me through jinking bone dry single track, drifting wide, casually locking up the rear end, nose to stem, hands in drops, grinning like a loon. Grinding out climbs, battling for every piece of forward momentum, while red kites hunted around me. And hooligan antics dodging cars, hitting the perfect apex around roundabouts, sprinting for lights.

Sunday, 22 May 2011


My first review is up on Patisserie Cyclisme.

The website is the idea of the lovely Louise. Got a few more reviews to write up when I get a moment.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Morning coffee break blog

First run since I didn't run the Three Peaks.
Best part of a month. Just haven't felt motivated. Have felt low, have done a bit of biking, but haven't felt in the mood for really pushing myself (and I am almost physically incapable of "just going out for a jog").
On reflection there has probably been a few factors causing this.
-The highs of Skye, of escaping, of just living, no real-world worries
-The crushing low of coming home and falling ill immediately, driving to the start of the 3 Peaks after 2 hours sleep, 12 hours throwing up and unable to keep down food. Sitting in the car, realising that I was an absolute idiot for even attempting to drive that far, let alone set off on a 24 mile run.
-Picking myself up from missing one of my big targets for the year. Realising that I can, to an extent, make my head better. I'm still at the whim of passing bugs though.
-My ex-girlfriend appearing back in my life. I've never stopped thinking about her, but seeing her, talking to her, spending time with her, and laying some of the longer lasting questions and thoughts to rest (on both sides) was both cathartic and deeply upsetting. Almost traumatic. While exercise should have been my perfect way of processing and coping, I ended up retreating and hiding.
So today, I got up. Did think, just ate breakfast, pulled on my trainers and took the short route into work. My rucksack felt heavier than usual. My legs lacked the spring. I was breathing more heavily. But I was loving it. Why the hell did I stop? Why do I end up cutting out part of my life that makes me feel good? What causes me to slowly reach over and press the self-destruct button? It might not be copious amounts of illegal narcotics, or a bottle of whisky each night, but equally, allowing myself to stagnate is bad for me.

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Skye Day 3

Again... I typed this up in Word at the time... just after I got back from the ride.

Photos from the trip are here.


Scenery so stunning that it’s hard to concentrate on the road. Which is interesting, as I have to dodge potholes, and oncoming cars along the singletrack roads.

Skye – Day 3… the biggie.



6hrs 30mins

I can only think of one ride that beats this for scenery… which was a winter conditions descent from Corrie Lagan.

Head feels floaty now, although that might be due to the beer I had in lieu of a proper “recovery” drink. Tasted a damn sight better though.

Sligachan – Camasunary Bay and back tomorrow on the mountain bikes. Brilliant.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Fleeting glimpses

What do you do when you catch a glimpse of another life?
One that you had. One that you thought was your life. One that was meant to be the way things were.
What do you do when you realise you miss it more than anything else? Miss a person. Miss sharing everything with them.
You see that person and talk to them. The pain of months of being apart gradually fades. You begin to joke, and laugh. You remember the exact shape their eyes make when they laugh. The weird, infectious, child-like giggle they have, that rings in your ears for hours after it's stopped. Forgotten familiarities. Locations of freckles, smell of hairspray, iffy application of fake tan, preferred drinks, shape of hand in hand.
Long blonde hair found on my t-shirt the next day.
A bigger, emptier void.
A child-like giggle that isn't there, except bouncing around an otherwise empty, cloudy head. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Dark clouds

Heavy hearted
Not a great week so far.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Skye Day 1

Well... seeing as I can't be bothered leaving my sofa... I wrote this on the evening, sitting in the cottage, looking at the sea. No internet meant that I couldn't upload at the time.

I have an album of photos here.


Epic. My body hurts. My heart aches. My eyes are full, It’s silent, apart from the howling wind and crashing waves. And my deep, calm, tired breaths. I’m alive.

Skye – Day 1

The oroginal plan for today was the road loop I talked about last week. Hebridean weather doesn’t always play fair though. After a stunning travelling day yesterday, I woke at 5am to high winds and horizontal. Rain. Hmm… it might blow over. It didn’t by 9.30, so change of plan. Starting at Orbost, I ran out to Macleods maidens… pinnacles of rock standing proud of huge, imposing sea cliffs.

I stood standing closer to the edge than I probably should for quite some time. I can’t describe quite how I felt. Deeply sad. But not depressed. Alone, but stronger for the isolation. Very, very little. The weather had eventually broken, and the sea shone with the turquoise iridescence that I have only ever seen around the west coast of Scotland.

I skirted the edge of these huge cliffs for another couple of miles. No path to speak of, other than the occasional vague narrow ribbon of shorter grass or heather. I stopped, took photos, checked the map. Stopped thinking. Just was.

Eventually I turned my back to the sea, and branched off inland, I was surprised how quickly I was moving over pretty grotty ground. Bog, heather, tussocks. Typical mountain marathon country. Normally bloody frustrating. Of course I tripped over, of course my feet were sodden. But it was pretty good fun. The gradient picked up rapidly, and my run/trot pace turned into a walk, stop, walk, trot, stop kind of pace. Sweat stung my eyes. Really, really salty sweat.. After a wee, er, scenic detour (I did not misread the map), I hit the top of the first of Macleods tables (which on this particular loop was the southerly one). So called because of their strange, wide, flat summits. Few jelly babies and on to his second table, to dine on a flapjack.

Twinges of cramp kicked in on the descent. It was steep and technical and an over extended leg, was all it took for the initial shoots of pain to fire from calves and inside of my thighs. Hmm. Not great. Eat more jelly babies. Sip more drink.

I didn’t feel tired as such, just awkwardly stiff. No flowing rhythm to my footsteps any more. I reached into my rucksack, grabbed my ipod shuffle and pushed the earbuds deep into each ear hole. The last proper bit of ascent up to Macleods table (north). Steep, but no really chore, and the novelty of music kept me entertained.

Flapjack eaten, slurp of water, with that final gurgle and splutter as my camelbak empties. Clouds were starting to roll in, and the wind was picking up. My sweaty base layer cooled rapidly, so straight down… along a stepped, wide ridgeline. Again, the going isn’t easy. Long heather, tussocks, and the return of cramp. Proper killer twinges. Enough to bring me to pull me up, leave me helpless… trying to contort into a position that lessens the pain from one muscle, without triggering another to join in on the fun. Fuckety, fuckety, fuckety. I can see where the car is parked. It’s only 3 or 4 miles away. Somewhat frustrated, I start walking, slowly. The pain wears off. I pick up the pace. Then brave a little jog. OW FUCK. Start the process again. After a while, my body seems to get used to the idea that it’s probably not a good idea to piss about. And the sooner I get back to the car, the sooner it will have water and food.

The final few hundred metres along a farm track are heaven. I open my legs fully for the first time in four hours and power back to the car. Arriving gasping, rasping, sucking in air. I’d have smiled if it didn’t hurt so much.


Sorry to the sightseer I confused when I pulled up in the lay-by near her. I guess I probably did look a bit silly, falling out of the car, and trying to stretch out a spasming muscle…


A couple of posts on Skye and one on the race that never was (for me)... the 3 Peaks. Will knock something up, maybe tomorrow am.

Need to pack for Ae first though.

Operation Butter knife>Sword fight

Racing! On a mountain bike!

I'm off to Ae Forest this weekend to compete in the first of the UK Gravity Enduro series. This is a brand new series of races, mostly to be held at trail centres across the country over the summer. Organised by Steve Parr, who used to organise a lot the downhill races a few years back, the series takes it's cues from euro-style "enduro" racing rather than what "enduro" has tended to mean in the UK.

This isn't a 100km endurance race.

The format takes that of rally special stages. Basically... pootle along and up the climbs... take your time, you aren't racing here. Get to the top. Wait for your allotted start time. Rag yourself silly downhill in the shortest time possible. Pootle to next start point. Repeat. Your final time = the cumulative total of all the stages.

I've done a two of these style races in the past. The Avalanche series has come to the UK for the last two years. Kielder Forest was the venue in 2009, Ae held the racing in 2010. I love the format. It really lends itself to the kind of sociable, relaxed, competitiveness that feels quite unique to mountain biking. You get to ride your bike much more than with UK downhill racing, and you can use your everyday trail bike.

So... 2011. Different race series, but same venue as last year. Looks like many of the stages are similar to last year, and broadly follow a loop of the red route, but also uses Shredder and the DH track.

I'll be riding exactly the same bike as last year... my trusty On-One 456 singlespeed. In "look at me" pink. It's fair to say that this is not exactly the perfect tool for the job. I had been hoping my Nukeproof Mega would be built and ready to roll by now, but delays at the factory have meant the frames haven't arrived on these shores yet.

On the plus side:
-Singlespeed gives me niche points
-And an excuse
-Hardtail isn't a massive disadvantage on some of the stages

On the downside:
-On the flat out, pedally sections, I spin out too quickly
-Hardtail is a disadvantage in terms of pure speed (and therefore time)
-Minimal "skill compensation" when I inevitably mess up a line

But, in the spirit of run what you brung, I'll have just as much fun, and to be honest, I'm nowhere near as skilful as the downhillers who will be racing, so it's not like choice of bike is going to be depriving me of podium places or anything. Still feels somewhat like bringing a butter knife to a sword fight however.

Weather forecast is, er rubbish. This is because we are camping. Very tempted to look into B+B options, if only to guarantee another sun-kissed weekend.

***Wuss update... B+B booked... Wuss update***