Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Back to Normality

It was hard coming back to a busy working week after the WRT and all that 'must do' nonsense we pile on ourselves, which, in fact, we could probably 'not do at all' if it came down to the nitty gritty of it.  But still, Facebook messages to be returned, bikes to be sold, reports to be written, sites to visit, it was all there, still waiting to guilt me into action as soon as the van pulled up at home. In fact, everything just piled in and something had to give. So I've stepped back from most stuff outside of work, including blogging, for a wee while. 

Here are a few pictures and a brief overview from the last fortnight, just to keep things ticking along. 

Kash making her way through the bluebells on the Tuesday 'Average Joes' ride the day after the WRT, the dry trails of home and friendly faces of the group a wonderful reminder that, maybe, escaping the ordinary weekdays isn't so necessary after all. It's all about perspective. 

A Saturday social ride with, [Carlsberg]probably the best bike club in the country[/Carlsberg], Mountain Bike Swindon. I have never been on a club ride like it, with all 29 riders spending time at the front, middle and back of the pack, chatting, smiling and showing genuine appreciation for the route, the guiding, their great organisation and most importantly, each other.

The guy to whom this belonged was indeed the true antithesis of the cleaned, polished and perfectly presented commercial cycling world.

Sunday is MX day for Steve, and a few weeks ago it was close to home. A 30 miler off road route was knocked up on the mapping software the night before. Some of it turned out to be beautiful....

However, it was mostly tough riding through muddy fields, into headwinds, overgrown bridleways, endless faulty gates, hike-a-bike over pedestrian bridges, getting barked at by farm dogs, and covering the bike in pond swamp. Knees were cut, wheels wouldn't turn and lots of good suffrin' was done. Just as a Sunday ride should be!

Was great getting to meet the most gorgeous younglings, inquistive, friendly and loved being fussed, once they plucked up the courage to get close enough.

Also met a farmer who's mostly incomprehensible English I thought translated as 'ignore the bridleway, go to the right of the traaaaactoooor'....except the yard had about 20 redundant tractors and nearly as many tracks and gates leading out of it. 

Still, I only ended up knee deep in mud and slime twice, in my favourite trainers. That will teach me for going with the 'it's just bridleways, I don't need riding shoes' option. It was worth it though, for the views over the Tenbury Valley. 

Got to the MX two hours later than planned, fell asleep, but did at least manage to catch Steve's last race. 

....and there was even a jet wash to was that pond swamp off. Who cares about bearings anyway?

To be honest I got through last week's Monday ride by the skin of my teeth. No photos, unfortunately, to prove that sometimes, one in a blue moon, auto-pilot can override the conscious brain when the speed runs away with itself on a steep descent. It seems I do have the ability to gap a stream to a perfect uphill two wheeled landing when I suddenly find myself careering toward it totally out of control.  It won't be forgotten in a hurry, that's for sure. If only I could ride like that all the time....

Wednesday's run in the Vibram Five Fingers. Not blessed with the usual spacious scenery, but the escape was just as appreciated from a dull day's reporting. It was most liberating to head out, late, lightless and knowing that, no matter how bad the visibility, there would be no getting lost on home turf, where it seems every stone is familiar. 

By Thursday the weather had cleared back up just in time for Thursday Social. Fabulous night, great folk, one broken finger (not mine), and mostly dry trails. 

This week was spent deliberating whether to attempt a solo 300 km hilly DIY Audax to Machynlleth. The route was put together and ridden this time last year, and, to be honest, the best road route I have ever done. I wrote an article for Arrivee Magazine which, much to my surprise, was published and can be found here (page 27).

However, this year, long distance riding has been pretty non-existent and it's been months since I've spent a full waking day on a bike. Would I be able to manage such a tough route? With 5200 meters of elevation (barometric data from the Etrex 30) it seemed like quite a big ask.

Still, once up and running, hill after hill ticked off as I passed through Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire and into Powys. Coffee was drunk in Clun, and copious biscuits consumed.

The solace of the lanes continued until Staylittle and then, suddenly I see a familiar face, or two. The BCM has been rerouted over the Machynlleth mountain road, which I joined at Staylittle from Llawryglyn and then rode back over to Llanidloes and Bwlch-y-Sarnau. 

It was really lovely to see friends passing in the other direction, smiling and waving as they whizzed down the descent as I climbed, however, I was glad not to be on the BCM this time. The legs were probably good for the distance, but I have little interest in sleep deprivation at the moment. It was most reassuring, however, to get through such a tough 300, coming from so very little training, and even more so as I hit a really bad patch after Machynlleth. No matter how much I drank, it was just sitting in my stomach. By the time I had ploughed back over the Mach mountain road, Llanidloes roller coaster and Bwlch-y-Sarnau, dehydration had kicked in.  On the Bleddfa climb I had slowed considerably and just had to stop and sit in the grass, no thought about finding somewhere nice, just there, that spot, on the verge. Legs were strong, but I was very sleepy and my stomach hurt. It would have been easy to bail, but instead I went with the WTFU+painkillers+caffiene option. Within 15 minutes, everything felt back to normal, and I came back to life for the remaining 70 km home. 

Once home was in view, across from the Woolhope Ridge, I was at peace. With several hours in hand, and plenty in my legs, those last 20 kms were bliss, cruising through the late evening calm, the heady scent of garlic, crops and spring flowers in the air.  A great reminder of what distance riding is really about.  

Monday evening was again spent with Steve this week. I love watching him ride, even more so in the woods at the moment as everything is just stunningly beautiful and the singletrack divine. 

Every precious moment of summer must be grabbed with both hands, for time passes by silently. Without warning, one day, your time will be gone.