Another “guest” appearance for Oxford City AC, although this was more planned than the last one. I’ve even been trying to join the club and buy a club vest, but that has proved more difficult than I’d have thought – I’ve been down to the Horspath track a couple of times but the chap who deals with membership and so on is either busy coaching juniors or not there. No problem, I’m sure I’ll get there eventually!
The race was three laps over some fields and waste ground around the back of the Harwell research area, and I’d been advised to wear studded shoes as the ground was a bit rough in places. The course turned out to have some gravel and even a few yards of tarmac path and nowhere near as much mud as Milton Keynes, so they proved the best choice. I borrowed a club vest off John Exley, and did a bit of a warm up. I’ve not had the best week’s training – after last Saturday’s 20-miler I had a sore tendon under a big toe and a bit of a “dead leg” in my quads. So I’ve only done a bit of jogging and quite a lot of intense cross-training to keep things ticking along for London.
After the last cross-country, where I started much too quickly and paid the price later on, I was much more cautious off the start this time. Apart from a few narrow bits around the back of a man-made hill, there were plenty of places to make up time if I got stuck behind people. The charge off the start (photos by John Harvey, Abingdon AC):
After the end of the first lap of three I was feeling pretty OK and running well, only losing places on the downhills, not so confident in the grip from my studs. I had a bit of a battle with a couple of other OCAC runners around the next two laps, and ended up tracking Roy Treadwell, who always seems to be just in front of me in the summer Mota-vation races. I was beating him up the hills but he was a bit quicker down the other side. Leading a group on lap one:
I was cruising along OK, despite the strong wind across the top of the big hill on this course, and tried to sprint at the end to reel Roy in, but was caught on the line myself by a runner from Alcester AC. A much better result than last time, but still more work to be done before my next races. Once the results were up I was happy to find I’d finished just a bit more than halfway down the field.
This morning’s steady 10km erg took me past 11 million lifetime metres on the Concept2. It’s only 15 months since I passed the 10 million mark, at this rate I’ll pass the 20 million mark when I’m 60. I seem to be doing more metres on the machine these days – I think I’m getting tired of heading out the door to train and I’m not so worried about the specificity of what I do. It’s all aerobic conditioning, eh?
I’ve had a good couple of months of steady running culminating in 92½km last week, but this week it seems to have caught up with me a bit. A sore tendon in under my left big toe, and a dead leg sensation in my right quad (which I often get in the left leg at this time of year). Just some easy jogging for a few days I think, keeping my Jantastic score rolling along.
Today’s cross-country was interesting, I’d had a bit of a spur-of-the-moment decision to run in this Chiltern League event. It’s been 22 years since I last ran one. I “guested” for Oxford City AC, and ran in a vest I borrowed from the vets team captain, John Exley who I’d been in touch with in the week. It was three laps/5 miles around some parkland in Milton Keynes and mud, more mud, and hills (I had to walk a few steps of the steepest one on the second and third laps). I was quite glad I’d dug out my old spikes for some grip, although they seemed quite a tight fit and I had sore toes afterwards. Do your feet spread with age?
John finished just in front of me, so we had a chat on the walk back to the club tent. He suggested that perhaps I was a little short of fitness and maybe I ought to be doing more miles. I told him I’d been doing 40-50 a week through December and January and he thought for a moment and then replied “maybe you ought to make it 60 to 70″!! Er, I don’t think so, at least, not right now. Anyway, I finished about 2/3rds of the way down the pack, my first time in a results sheet with “M50″ next to my name, and it was quite an eye-opener about how fast some of the quicker vets are.
Data from Strava. Results sheet here. And, although I didn’t have much to do with it “Chiltern League Oxford City AC XC squad win promotion back to Division One.” (that’s my old friend Ali in the picture – he was racing with OCAC when I last did a XC with them).
I had hopes of a reasonably quick run today. Although it’s a lumpy course (and there are more hills in the first half, so you can expect to run a negative split), my previous best from 2009 was a decent 1:27:52. I’ve run 330km in January, admittedly quite steady mileage, but I thought it likely I’d get close to 1:28 today. My plan was to set out with 13 minutes for the first two miles and then settle at about 6:45 minute-miles.
It was a nice sunny morning for chatting and I caught up with Matt Molloy (@AhoySavaloy) on the womens/veterans red start. Despite recent tendonitis he was likely to be quite a bit quicker than me so I left him to mosey up to the front ranks while I found a place just in front of the 1:30 pacer.
Straight off the start and in the charge down the park I could feel I was struggling with the fast early pace. I went through 2 miles in 13:04, slightly off target, and it really felt like I was pushing it to stay at that pace so I throttled back – another 11 miles at that speed seemed daunting. I never really seemed to get going and on the hills I just didn’t have that extra gear that my cycling strength usually gives me – I was going backwards on them. On the flatter sections 7 minute miles felt OK, so I stuck with that. Halfway passed in 45:26 and just after this point the 1:30 pacer and his groupetto overtook me. That was a bit of a downer, I was expecting to be a minute ahead of them at this point. My heart-rate graph shows a bit of a dip after this point. Probably because there are more downhills but also mentally I was taking it easier from here on in.
There were some impressive floods on the run back through 9 and 10 miles. My feet were getting a bit hot in my racing flats so it was actually a nice cool relief even if it took half a mile for them to dry out after the last and deepest flood. There was a photographer or two there, so hopefully some impressive photos!
Soon we were on to the drags back up into Cassiobury Park and I managed to get up on my toes for the run to the line, in 1:31:26 (average 6:58 min/mi). Looking at my WAVA score now, this is actually about the same age-performance as my previous 1:27 so although I was initially disappointed not to run as fast as I’d hoped, it’s not too bad at all really. Across the finish I saw Colin Taylor from Watford Joggers handing out drinks (he’s been a club member since my mum was running with them, 20 or 30 years ago) and I went over for a quick chat.
It seems that lots of long, steady, running has turned me into a long, steady, distance runner. No bad thing with London Marathon coming up. Hopefully I can turn some of this endurance into speed in April. I’ve got another 6 weeks of distance work coming up and then the Gloucester 20.
It’s been a while since I’d done any running racing (the Town & Gown 10k in fact), but I felt I needed a few tune-up races in the lead up to next year’s London Marathon. I’ve started to get a bit more running mileage under my feet. My achilles problems seem to be in the past now I’ve cut the heel tabs off all my shoes, although my left knee has been a bit clunky in the last couple of weeks. In the event, it didn’t bother me too much at all, I was more concerned that I’d had a late night the evening before, out at my cycling club’s annual dinner.
It was a cold morning as it always seems to be for this race, but I ran OK in gloves and a long-sleeved helly. Some runners were just in vest and shorts – a bit minimalist for me! On the first lap I fell in with a decent group which slowly split apart on the second lap. My nemesis from the summer Midweek Mota-vation races, Andrew Pike, cruised past me at 6km and there was no way I was going to beat him today. I had enough left in the tank for a decent wind-up in pace over the last kilometre or two and wasn’t too dissatisfied with a final 41:17 clocking on “chip” time, with halves of 20:31 and 20:46, so I didn’t slow down too much. Plenty of work to do in the next few weeks though.
My first time riding this audax (website here). It’s very popular with riders looking to complete their Randonneur-Round-the-Year award, as there aren’t all that many events at this time of year.
Starting in Cholsey, it hardly seemed worth getting the car out so I rode the 23km from home, although this meant leaving at 6:25am. I got to the Scout Hut HQ in plenty of time, already feeling a bit overdressed as it was warming up a bit, and picked up my brevet card, had a bit of a chat to Chris Asher (VC163) who I’ve not seen for a few years. He’d put on a bit of weight as he’d had an accident at work three years ago and put his back out. He was just getting back into riding.
After a few words from Phil Dyson about dodgy road surfaces and so on we were off. A fair-sized bunch soon formed, although once we got to the first decent uphill it split up. I made off up the hill, keen to get a good run down the next long downhill, and Chris was not far behind. Around here the hills were shrouded in mist. Chris caught me after a left turn and we rode together for a bit, having a chat. I warned him of a dodgy descent after Bix, and then he started to fall back a bit on the long drag up towards Christmas Common.
Riding into the first checkpoint at Waterperry, Phil D stamped my card but the cafe wasn’t yet open. I didn’t need to stop, and only ran out of water in my bottles on the way to Bicester where I topped them up at a service station. I suffered a rear-wheel puncture on the climbs over towards Ambrosden, and it took me about 10 minutes to fix it, but there was a nice view across the valley to Ashendon. I fully expected Chris to catch me up while I faffed, but I never saw him again.
The run over familiar roads to Bicester, although hilly, had a nice tailwind and I got rather warm along here although by the time I’d turned for the next checkpoint at Chipping Norton it had started to rain a bit and the wind was becoming more of a problem. The next section I found very hard – into a headwind with some heavy showers – and I was relieved to get to the left turn in Stanford-in-the-Vale which meant a tailwind for the last hour most of the way back to the HQ.
I stopped for about half an hour back at the hall, drinking a few cups of tea and having a bit of a snack. The second rider behind me rolled in not long after, and then I was off home, a decent tailwind pushed me all the way back to Cowley. 259km for the day, a pretty decent ride although I don’t suppose I’ll be doing big mileages over the winter. Washing my bike the next day I discovered a stripped thread on a bottle-cage boss, so the winter bike needs stripping down and sending off to Vernon Barker Cycles to get that fixed (they specialize in titanium frame repairs).
Strava ride data HERE
Another year, another Devil. I’ve never been the greatest cyclist uphill - although not a large rider, I lack the real power required to get up steep hills quickly. So this year I’d actually done some hill climb specific training, around the hills of Brill and Chearlsey over the preceding weeks, in the last of the summer sunshine. Naturally, the weather was not so kind on the day, and a fierce storm was predicted to hit the UK on Sunday night; hopefully we’d be off the moors before the worst of it hit. This being my fourth Devil, we’d be riding the same route as my first (with a minor difference in the first few miles to avoid a road closure). The route rotates between three routes.
After a bit of a disturbed night’s sleep with the wind whistling around Haytor Vale where I was staying, I freewheeled down to the Cromwell Arms to pick up my Brevet card and sip a coffee or two over some friendly banter. Off the 9am start, I like to be in the first few riders up Hind Street so I’m not caught out behind anyone fluffing a gear change or reduced to a walk. From there, it’s a bit of a sprint to get clear of the bunch and settle into the first long drag out of Bovey, towards Moretonhampstead.
A bunch of three and then another two quickly overhauled me, but I wasn’t keen to press on hard so early on, and let them go. They were soon out of sight, although one had a mechanical problem up the road (I later discovered) and I overhauled two more of them (on carbon race bikes, with race gearing!) on the run into the first checkpoint (Drewsteignton), to leave just two riders out in front of me. After their quick early pace, I had them in sight for almost all of the rest of the day. Although the wind got up, apart from a stretch across the back of Hound Tor we were sheltered from it in the lanes, and indeed, there were some fantastic views to be had in the bright sunshine.
Descending to Ashburton the weather was closing in and I donned my rain jacket for the next stretch, although I was soon too hot in it on the long, long climb past Holne and stopped to take it off again. It was going to be one of those afternoons. Once out on the Dartmeet road the rain started again and I needed that jacket once more. The wind and rain was in our face, and it was a real fight to get to Princetown, the kilometres were ticking by so slowly! I saw my old friend Andy Watt here, speeding past on his way back – he must’ve been amongst the 8am starters.
Quickly in and out of the Foxtor Cafe, we had a fantastic tailwind, freewheeling at +40km/h at times, for the next run past Two Bridges and across to Shapley Tor and an improvised checkpoint out the back of a campervan for the next turn, back into headwind to the foot of Widecombe Hill. I caught Andy here and he told me he was down to just three gears due to a problem with his rear gear cable, ouch. The other two 9am starters were still just ahead of me and although I didn’t have the legs to get up to them on this long hill, they carried straight on over the top while I turned left and took a road new to me. I’d sussed it out on Googlestreetview in the week before but hadn’t realised that it had two gates in it (rather than the cattle grids you find on other roads here) so that although my new route was a kilometre or two shorter, it seemed to take me a long time to cover it, and I had some horses to bypass halfway along. (You get a free route choice from the top of the last climb, hence my experimentation.) I rolled into the Kestor Inn at the same time as the two other guys who’d been in front of me all day. I later discovered that one of them, David H, is a local and has won many of the Strava KOMs around here. No wonder I struggled to stay with him and his mate on the climbs!
Despite the strong winds, I’d got back to the Kestor Inn in 4h55, the first time I’d ridden this event in under 5 hours. I was pretty happy with that and maybe the hill climbing I’d done in the weeks before had helped a bit. Mum was there to meet me at the Inn, as vocal in her support as ever.
Link to my ride on Strava. 2399m of climbing, I think this version of the Devil is slightly easier than the other two, mainly because you get some rest before the last struggle up Widecombe Hill.
Another ride around this friendly little audax, based out of Sonning Common. It’s a good test of my climbing legs before next month’s Dartmoor Devil, and is usually blessed with good weather (in 2012 I was struggling to hold on to the bars with sweaty hands!). The weather forecast in the week was not looking so great though which put a few riders off – only 40 of 60 entries took the start – but despite a bit of a hard headwind at times, we stayed dry.
I rode over to make a +100-mile day of it, and after a few chats over tea and buns at the village hall HQ, we were off. I rode out with Andy Watt, with whom I’d shared a house in Cowley many years ago, before either of us had heard of Audax, and Graham Hindle. I’d not seen Graham for many years – we often used to bump into each other at Palmer Park velodrome where his daughters rode, and he occasionally did the odd road race or two, like me. He’d spent the last few years earning mega-bucks in banking and was decked out from head to foot in Assos gear. His bike, a Parlee with SRM cranks, was pretty special too.
We kept a good pace to the Chinnor halfway checkpoint, Andy leading on the climbs and Graham and me taking a turn on the flatter stuff. After a quick refill of bottles, Graham said he was starting to tire, so Andy and I took our turns on the front to the next steep climb back up to Stokenchurch where we dropped Graham for good. It was starting to warm up now and Andy stopped to take off his knee warmers where I trundled on. He was going well, and I was sure he’d catch me up soon, but I never saw him until the finish, although I’d started to press on over the last couple of hills, realising that a sub-4 hour finish was on the cards.
I stopped the clock back at the village hall at 3h55, a new PB for me. Andy rolled in a few minutes later. We had a bit of a chat over some more mugs of tea and then it was time to roll home. We waved to Graham coming in on the last section as we were leaving.
I crawled home, although I was pretty happy with that ride. Hopefully a sign that I’ll be going well on the Devil. 172km under my wheels. Link to Strava ride HERE
Quite looking forward to a ride on this F15/10 course, new to me, although it’s been in use for over a year, and came about when the dual carriageway was built to Bedford from Milton Keynes, leaving the old road behind. I used to use it quite a bit, driving to and from the F1 course. In the week I’d done a bit of tweaking to my position on the TT bike, fitted a slimmer rear brake and also bought a new aero hat – a Bell Javelin, which I was pleased to find I could squeeze on a medium size, rather than a large. A smaller helmet is generally going to be more aero than a larger one. My last TT of the season, so I was keen to make it a good one.
Nevertheless, I managed to arrive at the HQ a bit close to my start time (I was going on to Portsmouth to visit Jules after the event and slightly misjudged my packing), so I didn’t have much chance for a decent warm-up. I rode over to the start with Robert Frowen, who was off a minute behind me, and noticed that we’d have a headwind back from the turn. Off the start and down the “gift hill” I was working hard and hit a top speed of 71km/h, and still carried quite a bit of that speed into the first roundabout. I realised at the last moment I had slightly overcooked it but an emergency dab of the brakes got me round. Once I’d got to the far turn, it was a real slog back to the timekeeper into the wind. I hit some bigger power numbers along here and buried myself for the last mile to record a new 10-mile power PB (NP 280W), finishing just a second outside 22 minutes.
In a strong field of 107 riders my time was good enough for 12th place although it was very tight and a few seconds faster would’ve got me into the top-10. It was won in 20:34, a good time given the conditions.
Strava ride data HERE.
Despite not really doing much preparation for this, I wasn’t too apprehensive of a 12-hour ride. I’d managed three or four 200km DIY audaxes over the summer, but only one really decent long ride in August. I figured I was just riding for a finish and decided to use my road bike with some decent wheels and clip-on tribars, for comfort and maybe a bit of speed.
I had a mid-afternoon pasta meal and then drove out to Kent and around the course to put out my supplies of spare bottles and food, hidden in hedgerows in bin bags. It was reassuring to see quite a bit of course direction signage had been put out, although I was reasonably confident I knew where the circuits would go having sussed it all out on google streetview in the week before. I retired to my travelodge room with a beer and a snack to watch some mindless TV before a 4:45am alarm call.
Next morning was very cold, but with little wind. With zero need to do a warm up it was just a question of getting my bike out, putting on bottles and filling my bento box with flapjack before a 1km trundle to the startline. Early starters needed lights, but by 6:45am it was just about light enough that I didn’t need them. I was working to a rough idea of what my power should be for a 12-hour, 70-75% FTP, and interested to see if this easy start would pay dividends later in the day.
The first few hours were on a large circuit. I was finding it OK apart from the westerly wind that was rising, and making my quads ache a bit, which wasn’t a good sign. I stopped at 4h20 for my first re-fill of bottles and camelbak and so on. I’d been averaging slight more than my target power, but it still felt easy. At this point a few of the faster seeded riders behind me came through and as I got going from my stop I got into a bit of a tussle with nos. 50 and 61. I think this distracted me a little – I really needed to be riding at my own pace – but I felt they were going perhaps a little too slowly, after all, they’d only really caught me because of my stop. l steadily pulled away from them into the windy sections and then a lap or so later pulled level with no. 8, a young lad on a road bike (without tribars). He was riding pretty steadily and it took me a while, and some effort, to get past him, before finally I thought I was probably trying too hard and let him get a bit of a lead. He stopped for drinks soon afterwards so as we were turning on to the link section to the next circuit I was on my own at last. I’d been leapfrogging no.60, Nick Stagg, here too. We’d not crossed paths for a few years (we had a 5km pursuit final in 2001 at Palmer Park track league that I maintain he only won because I’d ridden the Hounslow 100 TT the day before!), so it was good to see Nick riding his first 12-hour.
My back and shoulders were getting sore when I rode on the tribars and I was regretting not fitting a shorter-reach stem. The second camelbak I was using was floating about on my back and didn’t help – next time I’m going to sew a waist strap on to it. I spent quite a bit of the next few hours sitting up “on the hoods” in an effort to take some of the pressure off my back, and had a quick stretch at my second fuel stop, after about 8 hours. My feet were getting quite sore and I loosened the straps off my shoes, which had an immediate effect, much more comfortable. I wasn’t enjoying the middle circuit - it was rougher and exposed to the wind – and it was good to know that the last bit was just around the corner. My power was drifting off my earlier conservative estimate, which was a little disappointing. Maybe I’d have held it better if I done some better long distance rides? We had one last link section to ride, up a long drag back, and then we were on the finish circuit. I ditched the pesky camelbak as I knew I had some emergency spare bottles planted out on this circuit.
The finish circuit, although a little hillier than the rest of the course, was at least quite sheltered and it was better to ride as all the supporters had gathered around the 10-mile circuit – you were never far from a cheer. I did wonder whether I’d beat 240 miles, but trundled around, eating the last of my flapjack and a few chunks of Kendal Mint Cake I’d saved as a sugary treat for this last section. Finally I was on my last lap of the finishing circuit and then freewheeling to a timekeeper, just 35 seconds past the 12-hour point. Relief! After a few minutes chatting to no.42 who’d also stopped here, we made our way slowly back to the HQ.
I think I’ve done about 239.7miles. My least 12-hour mileage ever, but not too bad I guess. It was interesting to see how my power faded away despite the steady start – part of that must surely be due to my lack of hard miles this year. On reflection I’m wondering whether I’d have been better off ignoring my PM and just riding on feel as usual, but it was a good experiment. The ride is here on Strava.
I got changed and had a few cups of tea and sausage rolls in the HQ over a bit of banter with the other finishers. I had to push off before the provisional results went up on the board to go out and pick up my empties from around the circuit. After the last pickup I grabbed an americano from a nearby garage and headed back to the M20 and a steady drive home. Hopefully some results and pictures will appear soon.
Provisional results: KCA 12 hour news. 240.265 miles, sounds OK!