Thursday, 23 July 2015

Mid Wales Microadventure - Bikepacking

Can't argue with that view to wake up to...
For some reason, despite all the cycle touring Dave's done and all the back packing and long distance riding that I've done - neither of us had never "bike packed".  What I'm referring to here is travelling overnight on Mountain Bikes through mountains carrying minimal gear (ie no panniers).

I'd got lots of lightweight kit as had Dave - we'd backpacked round the Alps / Pyrenees & Dolomites together many years ago, but there was one gap in our gear portfolio - something to carry it all in on our mountain bikes. So, earlier in the year I thought I'd start researching the best way of getting all the stuff attached without breaking the bank.

There were plenty of online options but only one really that was affordable - the Alpkit Tapered Seatpack 13litre and their 13litre Drybag for the handlebars. All for £25 !!
Starting in Rhayader, Clockwise following Trans Cambrian Day 2 then heading East to pick up TC Day 1
Now I just needed a quick scour of the web for a route which was ;
  • Completely new to us
  • Not too far to drive to
  • Felt quite wild
  • Had a good mix of tracks and bridleways
  • Was a circular or could be made circular
  • Allowed us to test kit properly for something bigger
It didn't take long to uncover the Trans Cambrian Way and in particular Day 2 of the TCW. It formed a loop which starts at Rhayader and ends a few miles up the A470 at Llangurig. Checking the map more closely showed that there were masses of Bridleways to the East of the A470 so we could make up our own route once over there, covering about 60 miles over 2 days.
Fun Filled post pub ride out to the Overnight Camp #iphone
Well, I say two days, but as this was a Microadventure then we really needed to shoe horn it in to as little time as possible. Plan was to leave after work, ride to camp spot, ride most of the ride the next day and head back late Saturday night. Juggling work, pleasure and family life is always a balancing act, so having Sunday with Teresa, Lewis & Mum seemed a good compromise. After arriving in Rhayader about 9ish we snook in a quick pint in a really nice pub before heading off out into the encroaching darkness in search of somewhere to spend the night !
Dave showing how weather sealed his hubs were !!
After a few miles it soon became apparent that Dave's seatpack had a mind of it's own - first sitting too high, then too low, then too loose. With the right straps this would be perfect - in fact mine didn't budge all weekend, so something to change for next time for Dave.

The original plan was to head out to some small lakes at the West end of Claerwyn Res, but riding in the dark is always slower than you think especially when you take into account ;
  • Getting lost
  • Refaffing with Dave's seatpack twice
  • All the climbing that was involved
  • Getting lost again!
After some really really nice riding (some pretty rough) we came across a flat patch of grass next to a stream about midnight. Perfect ! We soon got very cosey in the lovely and spacious Alpkit Ordos 2 tent on our Alpkit Numo mattresses. Those mattresses are really something by the way. That night was the best night's sleep I've ever had wild camping - by a long way !! I've tried everything from Bubblewrap, to thermarest, to balloon beds and nothing has come close to the Alpkit Numo. It packs small, is light and only costs £25. It also inflates so is very thick - something which adds comfort and warmth.  Having a hip flask of Dave's Penderyn Whisky really topped the night off well!

Day 2 dawned and we found ourselves in a lovely wide, open valley with the sun peppering the tent with early morning sunlight. It was lovely. No midges either! A quick Aeropress coffee and Pot Noodle and we were off again. This time west out along the remainder of Claerwyn Dam before heading north to Llangurig (handy cafe stop!) and then east to pick up the Trans Cambrian Day 1 route back into Rhayader.

Riding always felt really wild and miles away from anything. Trails were very varied and 99% rideable. The views and the weather were the icing on the cake.

Time to plan the next bigger adventure then !

Monday, 20 July 2015

BDL League Race : Carsington 6:32/mile

Carsington BDL is a regular fixture in our local league and it's normally typified by two things from what I remember. Thunderstorms and a course which is far harder than it should be. Thankfully - we only had the latter this year!

I was hoping for a good run this year. The preceding weeks had gone well - no niggles and lots of biking at weekend, plus one fell race per week. Following my recent trend, I thought I'd cycle to the race to loosen the lungs up on the hills on the way there so Chris and me headed over via a good few hills and I felt suitably "loosened" when I got there, Nice to see Marcus at this race - it was the first time I'd seen him since his Clif 10 Peaks race 10 days ago. Thankfully it went well (16hrs) and has now cemented in his mind that he's tackling the Bob Graham next year. Well done lad.

I'm also trialling delaying my breakfasts until lunchtime - my breakfast bowls are getting just way too big and often I don't find myself hungry at breakfast so I'm eating for the sake of eating. I was interested to see how the running would be affected if at all.

The race went well. I ran as good as I could have hoped - overtaking many who I normally finish with and not fading at the end. Finishing 25th out of 307 that's about as high as I normally place in these league races, so very happy! The course was slightly longer than previous years, so comparing times wasn't possible.

Can't quite rationalise me running 6:26/mile last year and 6:32/mile this year - I certainly felt faster this year although it was slightly longer with a bit more climb.

Last year's blog 6:26/mile
Strava link here
Results here

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Black Rocks Fell Race 2015

Another great local race last night and one I've not raced before.  Starting from Cromford Meadows, it goes along the canal, up the incline, round a few paths to the summit trig then back. Potentially a tedious route with the canal and incline in there but boy was I pleasantly surprised !

In theory, I should have been running well on this race. I'd cycled to Wales on my MTB the weekend and done a hilly loop to get to the race via about 5 hard pushes up some local hills. Plus, I'd had a couple of gels and I had no niggles. Strangely, I always run best when I've got my biking legs, so fingers crossed.

It was nice to see Andy Nash, Tom Moulder and Kath Beardsley all turning up to their first or second ever fell races along with Rachel and Steve who are old hands now!!

Quick warm up and we were off along a very sunny Cromford Canal. I settled in behind Kev Perry who I know is never far off my pace. Feeling comfortable I tool him near the end of the canal before we turned up the incline. As soon as the path turned upwards, Kev and 2 others came charging past me at a pace that made me look like I'd hit the wall ! I knew I felt good and I knew how long the incline was and I knew it got steeper after that and I also knew that I frequently go too fast early on, max out then do not recover in time. Not tonight !!!

By the time we got back onto the incline path (rejoining it after a nice detour into the woods) I went past them like they were standing still. I felt comfy so decided to take 2 more runners 100m in front, 1 of which was Tom!

As we got to the steepest part of the race - up to the trig - everyone slowed but I managed to keep a good pace taking Tom and catching some others. As ever though, I knew that if I took anyone near the summit they'd just come charging past me on the descent and tonight wasn't any different !
Andy, Dave, Rachel, Ed, Helen, Chris, Me, Steve, Tom and Katharine - all smiling !!!
The descent was much more fun than I'd imagined though - weaving through rocks then woods picking a route which was really quite hard at full gas! I think I only lost 2 places on the descent (inc one older DPFR guy who was significantly faster than anyone else - Andy Dickinson). Again, I had to hold something back as I knew how long and flat the canal was right at the end.

I finished in 15th place out of 178 having run the best I've done in any race this year I think. I'm sure the biking has helped again. Thanks to Nathan for taking the shot above.

It seems there was a big gap behind me though - apparently a canal barge had come through shortly after I'd gone over the bridge and halted about 20 runners for 90 seconds - likely story Chris!

Results are here 15th out of 178, Top 8%

Hope Wakes Fell Race 2015

I couldn't make this race last year and listening to how much Chris and Andy enjoyed it, it was high on my list for this year. Thankfully I could make it with Teresa being on days.

After cycling to last week's race at Riber on a stunning summer's evening, it sowed the seed in my head that whilst it's warm and light until 10pm - why not cycle to most peaks fell races ? Stick a lock in, stick lights in, job done. In the days leading up to this one I'd told a few people that I'd cycle there. What I'd not taken into account sadly was that the night of the Fell Race was going to be the hottest July day in 8 years ! Well into the 30's.
Win Hill - looking very ... distant!
I'd cycled to work and back then a quick change of top, pick up bag and head out to Hope. It genuinely was some of the warmest weather I've ever cycled in - easily comparable to towns in the bottom of valleys in the Alps and although it was pouring off me, I enjoyed every second of it. Cycling in the heat is a pleasure. Running in this heat ??? Hmmm, this wasn't going to be pleasant!

Nice to see Steve Meath on the start line - his first fell race of the year - but what a tough race to pick. I had my fingers crossed for him!

I'd been warned about the two big climbs on this route, so was more than ready for those. What I wasn't prepared for was the length of the track round the back of win hill - from when you enter the woods it must be 3 miles. Mostly downhill too, although the heat meant that I was in "just get round" mode instead of "race" mode. I think the heat was getting to everyone though as no one was really making ground on me and conversely I wasn't making ground on anyone else either.

Hope Wakes Route : "Just" over Win Hill twice then
Hope Wakes Route Profile
Whilst running along the track at the back of Win Hill I'd suddenly started to come over very shivery with goosebumps. Not a good sign ! I'd had this before if my body was running out of something or other, but I didn't know if it was water or food to be honest. If it was water, I'd be stuffed as there was a good way to the finish and I knew I'd be cramping badly before the end. If it was food, then I could just slow up and "enjoy" it. Thankfully it was the latter.

The views from the 2nd climb up Win Hill were truly memorable - back over Ladybower and all the glorious High Peak Moorland. I won't forget those views in a hurry and that's exactly why I fell race.

I crossed the line in 30th - higher than I'd expected as I'd gone into limp mode for the second half and didn't feel that strong on the first climb either. The finishing field was littered with bodies in all sorts of states - the heat had really taken it's toll on folk. It took me about 15 mins before I was in any state to talk to people! Thankfully, Chris and the other Harriers agreed I looked "knackered" and told me to chuck my bike in his boot. For once, I wasn't going to argue!

No team shots from the end - I was too tired to take any!

Results here 30th out of 215, Top 14%
Strava flyby here
Strava link here