Dartmoor Devil

Another return to the hilly roads of Dartmoor, this time for my sixth lap. As we ride a variation of the route every three years I knew we’d be back on the Pepperdon Hill circuit, which is by far the hardest of the three. Last time around this took me 5h20, more than 20 minutes slower than the other routes.

For once the forecast was for a fine day and indeed, it proved to be so, even better than the year before although the roads were covered in wet leaves from the rain of the last few days (the infamous Pepperdon Lane was definitely a walk, although I made it about 2/3rds of the way up before a lack of traction and the gradient defeated me). It was very cold early on, especially freewheeling down to the start from Haytor although once we were tackling the first few climbs I soon warmed up! I felt like could’ve done with some more hill training in the weeks beforehand and struggled up some of the gradients later in the ride but the fantastic views this year more than made up for it. I got back to the Kestor Inn after about 5h35, so a bit slower than the previous time, but I was happy enough with that, as I’d had a bit of a hold up with some cows being herded down the road near Drewsteignton.

I paid Kevin, the organiser, for a six-time award to be posted to me, I’m not sure whether I’ll go back for another ride – this audax seems to come right at the end of a very long season and I struggle to find my motivation for training for it in some years. Maybe though, I should aim for a nice round 10 completions?

I'm off in the 9am start [thanks to Kevin Presland for the photo]

I’m in orange (natch), with cardboard devil horns. The 9am start [thanks to Kevin Presland for the photo]

Oxford half marathon 1:31:00

Recent running had tended to suggest that while I was carrying good fitness from PBP, I was feeling a good 2 or 3 kg overweight. Didn’t feel too bad warming up though, and it was a nice day for October – hardly any wind and cool.

After a delayed start due to travel problems for some people arriving by train, I was off to a steady start, and thinking that maybe my target of 1:31 was perhaps too ambitious. Certainly the open kilometres up through Summertown and back felt a bit harder than perhaps they should, but then on the leg to Marston, an old friend from my rowing club days, Julian, passed me. I thought that would be the last I saw of him, but coming back out of Marston I started to pick up some form and caught him on the twisty bit back through the Parks in into town. My feet were getting pretty sore but I surprised myself by having enough left in the tank for a speedy last kilometre and hit the finish line exactly in 1:31:00.

Running back through the parks, about to catch Julian

Running back through the parks, about to catch Julian [thanks to Barry Cornelius for the photo]

Leo 30-mile TT 1:01:38

I had a bit of a stop-start week’s training, with some travelling to a meeting midweek, but I’d also managed a reasonable set of 2-minute intervals – not quite as good as those I’d done before my the Icknield 10, but good enough to give me some confidence going into this last TT of the year. London East had found a new variation on the E2 courses, and this 30-miler was basically the fast middle bit of the E2/50 – it promised to be quick if the wind stayed away.

In the end we had a rare calm afternoon for racing even if it was a bit cool, and a full field produced some very quick times. Off near the tail of the field, I did my usual warm-up – a bit of riding around and a few low-gear sprints – and then I was ready for the race. After about a kilometre along a country lane I was out onto the dual carriageway and zooming along. Riding to power these days, I have no real idea how fast I’m going but I seemed to be flying along. Everyone was going quickly though – I wasn’t catching too many riders. I thought it might be a bit harder coming back from the far turn and tried to contain my enthusiasm on the way out, only partially successful. In the end I started to blow with about 10km to go as I rode over the A11/A14 flyover sliproad, but still had enough left in the tank for a final mad minute back to the timekeeper, stopping the clock in a massive new PB, nearly 4 minutes faster than my best, set way back in 2001.

Getting back to the HQ, there were plenty of smiling faces and a new women’s competition record by Rachael Elliot (1:03:29). There were also women’s and men’s team records, and 10 men went under the magic hour. Quite a day!

At the turn. I was experimenting with a lower/shorter bar position to get my head + shoulders lower. It proved very slippery but less powerful. Swings and roundabouts... [thanks to Davey Jones for the photo]

At the turn. I was experimenting with a lower/shorter bar position to get my head + shoulders lower. It proved very slippery but less powerful. Swings and roundabouts… [thanks to Davey Jones for the photo.]

Henley Hilly 100

A good hilly test for the Dartmoor Devil to follow in a month’s time, this audax seems to becoming a bit of a fixture in my calendar. It used to be that I’d ride the 100km Ted Friend/Kevin Hickman audax out of Charlbury at the end of September, usually riding there and back to make a day of it and often in the company of a few guys from the local TT scene, but that audax died out some years ago.

The day started very very cold, 0°C was recorded at Benson as I rode through there from home. I wore some plastic gloves under my track mitts but they didn’t do much good really and I was frozen by the time I rolled into the village hall HQ. After a few cups of tea in an attempt to warm up, we were off. The sun was occasionally peeking through the clouds but it took me some time to get going. After about 30km or so I started to reel in the faster starters, but even so, one rider remained ahead. I just didn’t seem to have the legs for the climbing today – that cold start had really had an effect on me and I was happy just to get round in reasonable time and then plod home for a warm bath, 174km clocked up for the day.

Lake 62 End of season triathlon, 7th (1st M50)

A nice little ‘Olympic’ distance triathlon for the end of the season I spotted not too far away, in the Cotswold Water Park. I realised I’ve not raced over this distance for three years, although at just over 2 hours it should lie in the best range of my endurance.

Despite a decent week’s training the weather had got distinctly autumnal and I’d managed to put on another kilo as a result, not ideal but I knew I still had good fitness. Indeed, my old BlueSeventy Synergie wetsuit was a bit of a tight fit this morning but it didn’t seem to hold me back as I had a decent swim: after a quick sprint off the line I settled into a good rhythm and apart from a slight pause at the second buoy to clear my misted goggles I really enjoyed it. The leader of my wave (I was in the first of four waves) was miles ahead but I don’t think I was more than 5th or 6th out of the water, a good start.

After a bit of a struggle with cold hands to get my wetsuit off I was quickly out on the bike and reeling in the early leaders. Not too many on the road just yet, so I was able to ride my own race, the way I like it. Coming in around the second lap, the next wave of triathletes were just emerging on to the road. I had about 10 minutes of overtaking them and then another lap mostly on my own. With 5km to go I downed my one and only gel, although I was feeling little “full”, maybe from drinking too much of my bidon on a cool morning.

I stopped in T2 to put on socks – a little insurance for my broken toe – and was soon out on the run. The leader of my wave was already coming around to complete his first run lap, minutes ahead. We had six laps to do, and the guy I’d caught at about 30km into the bike was already past me at the end of lap one. A bit frustrating, but I just had to keep plugging away. At the end of my first lap there were still only four bikes in transition, all good. Looking at my Garmin I thought my run pace was a bit slow, but it was a tight, rough twisty path and all the run times were a bit down. It was good though to have been in the first wave here, as we didn’t have too many runners to overtake each lap. Finally my six laps were up and I could head for the finish. I had a moment of doubt as I’d managed to accidentally pause my Garmin for about 30 secs coming out of T2 and wasn’t sure I’d done quite the right distance, but I hadn’t lost count of those laps!

Quite a nice little event. There were even a couple of newly-weds from Cheltenham Tri doing the event as a relay – the bride ran her laps holding a wedding bouquet from the day before (I’m guessing the wedding breakfast was a relatively sober affair!). The club was having a BBQ at the end of the race which added quite a bit to the atmosphere.  After collecting my M50 award I headed home and a chill on the sofa with the Sunday paper.

Swim 1600m/23:59 (no need for my own splits as the timing mats were well placed)
Cycle 41km/1:05:26 (37.6 km/h)
Run 9km/40:12 (4:28 min/km) = Total 2:12:29, 7th overall and first M50 [Results]


Icknield RC 10-mile TT. 20:29

Back to the esoteric world of cycling time trials. Recovery from PBP was going well, and I’d snuck in a great 2-minute interval session on Thursday – one of my best ever – so my confidence in a fast, powerful ride was good. The day was a bit cool and breezy, but sunny for all that. High pressure and cooler temperatures are not ideal for fast times, but this is a quick course and I’ve not ridden it for a year or more. I was also more confident in my time trial bike now that the rear-triangle had been re-bonded last winter – it tracks in a straight line at high speed now!

Because there are three distinct hard sections to this course (the F11/10), split by (i) a long first turn, (ii) a downhill and (iii) the final roundabout, it’s a bit of an extended interval session. As a result your average power can sometimes look a bit low compared to a more even course like the F20/10, but on the hard sections here I was pushing on, right up to my limit. My repaired bike was much better on the downhill section this time too and I didn’t get quite so much of a rest as on previous rides here. That’s good though – and surely helped me to a 7-year best time of 20:29. Coming back to the timekeeper under the final overbridge I glanced down at my Garmin and could see 19-something on the clock so I knew I was on a special ride.

I finished 11th overall (although the field was not as strong as it would’ve been earlier in the year), which was pretty good for me. Had the weather been kinder I might have been a few seconds quicker and maybe close to an all-time PB. Happy with that! [Results]

Riding out of the first (long) turn

Riding out of the first (long) turn

Oxford Tri sprint, 4th (1st M50)

Time to test my fitness with a little local sprint triathlon. Last time I did this one, I was coming off the back of a season’s racing my trike and we had good weather. I was 4th that day,  would I be as fast this time? I was still dropping off to sleep at a moment’s notice, but when I decided to put a bit more effort in on the bike I could feel there was some real power there. No achilles problems after returning from Paris either, so I’d managed three steady runs.

The day dawned wet, and looked set to remain that way so I drove over to Radley College rather than riding. No point in suffering. Being one of the faster swimmers I was off in nearly the last wave, and had a pretty good swim – just 400m in the pool – first out of the water from my wave start, although one other guy passed me in transition while I faffed with a gilet.

The roads were soaked, so every corner had to be taken fairly carefully, no point in any heroics. The first part of the bike course is lumpy and there’s a lot of time to be made up by going hard here I think, so I was soon past the guy from my wave and hammering up over Boars Hill. After the descent that follows it’s more steady, although there are quite a few junctions which you’ve got to jump out of to get your speed back up. Coming back to T2 I eased off a bit for the final 5 minutes and then cruised to the dismount line.

We had a lengthy run across the tarmac transition area here, and barefoot it wasn’t good for the toe I broke this time last year. I faffed about taking my gilet off and squeezing wet feet into wet running shoes but straight away in the run I knew I’d damaged it a bit. This wasn’t so bad on the bits of the run course that were grassy, but there was a lengthy section of footpath, and on the second lap it was really getting sore. I still managed to wind up my pace for the finish – sub 4 minutes for the last kilometre – but the toe was a bit of a worry.

It was good to catch up with the local Oxford Tri folk and see how everyone’s season had gone. After I’d packed my bike away and got changed, I wandered back to the school hall to see how I’d done and was just in time for the prize presentation and to collect a little cup for my win in the M50 age group. Although I was about 5 minutes slower than 2012, the run course was a bit longer (and I was slower) and the bike being wet had slowed that down too, as well as faffing about with a gilet for the bike. Despite the wet it had been a nice little event; friendly faces and some good cakes. Only my sore toe was a bit of a worry.

“SuperVets” claim their prizes

As well as a medal, there were some nice things from Secret training in my prize bag – a gel, some balms, wipes, and sort of sports-flannel.


Swim 400m/6:31 (Official timing in brackets 7:05)
T1/01:53 (0:56)
Cycle 22½km/37:14 (36.2 km/h) (37:50)
T2/01:22 (1:00)
Run 5.3km/22:42 (4:14 min/km) (22:42) = Total 1:09:49, 4th overall and first M50 [Results]