Saturday, 20 December 2008

Brain training

Because I have been too ill to ride :( Becca has had the flu, and just like she said in the marriage vows, she shared it with me. Cue 2days off work bored to death. I am back in today as its the "busiest shopping day" of the year...well not in this bike shop. Pretty much all the bikes are sold and awaiting collection. P+A is going OK for last minute / little pressies and the odd kids bike.

So while I was off I did do some thinking about how I am going to build a good base mileage early in the year given the weather and motivation that early January brings. So I have decided to combine watching all those movies I have never go round to seeing and training into one. One joy of wooden floors and a detached house is that you can set the turbo-trainer up in the lounge and watch a movie with the sound way up with no complaints. So I need to compile a list of good movies I want to watch and fill out a Blockbuster membership form.

I realise that it won't replace all out doors cycling but should allow me to shift some of the extra stone I have gained in the last few months. Base miles interspersed with self-flagulation on the Ashton club rides should help build my strength and stamina.

I think I have pretty much sorted how and what I am carrying on the Spiti Race, yeah I know its months away and planning whats going where should be way down the list I had plenty of "mind time" on my hands in the last two days so I have it sorted. Frame pack will take the tools, tubes, pump, first aid kit, arm and leg warmers, buff and hat plus snacks and race book (if its the same as the MTB Himachal we need a "Time Book" which is a 50page duplicate book for signing at the start and finish of stages)

The Camelbak Classic will take 2l oh H2O and the Montane jacket on the bungee net and the lip balm, emergency whistle and MP3 player on the straps. I know I hate carrying stuff on my back but the Classic with its minimal weight and good straps is OK for longer stuff. No matter how I pack the kit the ride is going to hurt. Getover it. The only unknown I know at the moment is where the riders support jeep will be on the day. Each Jeep is shared by 4 riders and carries their stuff during the day and word is you can access your stuff during the race. Handy if you end up busting lots of tubes or rip a tyre.

I have just been lent a copy of "Short Walks in Shangri-La" and while it is about a walking trip to Nepal some of the stuff rings true with India too and while I am only a couple of chapters in its an entertaining read.

later

Alex

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

...and now we have corporate sponsorship

Yep, long time aquaintance and purveyor of fine singlespeed, fixed and 29er bits Charlie the Bike Monger has agreed to kit me out with some essential stuff for my trip. I am not sure when I first met Charlie but I am pretty sure I was still at Johnny A's and it could have been one of the singlespeed races at Thetford. His online business has grown from a few items on Ebay to a proper online shop stocked with lots of great stuff and information on how and why to use it.

My bike is awaiting a 20t Surly fixed cog and new chain and a tropical tweed cycling cap for me. Stainless steel and wool...what a great combo. Needless to say that by bike will now be sporting (more) CtBM stickers and please follow the link on the left for all your perverted cycling parts needs :)

Other news is that I have fitted a CaneCreek Thudbuster ST to the bike [Si'down at the back!] If its good enough for uber-Viking berserker Dicky I can dam well use one too. Its the secret to off-road fixing over long distances according to the big-D so I'll give it a go and hope it saves my ring on the rough stuff. Thanks to Extra UK (CC importers) for doing me a staff deal on it.

Also on the bike are two chainrings, a Surly 34t and 36t so I can run a dinglespeed 34:20 (uphill at altitude) 36:18 (downhill and over 15mph!) without moving the brake pads or more likely a 36:20 for round here as we lack amazingly long up or downhills. So no its not a singlespeed anymore. Blah.

Also worth noting is the mc write up on dropbar padding and wrap. Cloth tape is a lot more durable and making use of an old mouse mat pure genius. Might give it a go if I can get my Oury grips off in one piece.

Riding has been a start-stop affair as I went on the Ashton night ride last Tuesday with Trevor from work and had a blast in the cold clear night on to of Cleeve until I clipped a pedal on the way into a small bomb-hole and went A-over-T and landed hard on my right side. I managed to keep riding but the next few days were worrying as it hurt more and more on my hip and upper arm. Then it started to heal just as a huge bruise came up on my shin. Ah well. Training is just not a good idea :) My fitness was not as bad as I feared BUT I still have a huge way to go to get it back on form.

Planning the logistics side of things has been easier as sitting indoors with a cup of tea sounds a better option at this time of year. Latest plan is to carry the bulky but light stuff (ie clothing) in the Carradice SQR pack where it won't rattle and the heavy tools, tubes etc in the bottom of the frame bag. This leaves the top of the frame bag for food, water, camera and other "to hand" stuff. AND NOTHING ON MY BACK. Worth using CaPsLoCs for that. I hate carrying stuff on my back and unless I am really careful my neck and shoulders mutiny which is the last thing you want on an 8 day race.

Thats enough for now.

Alex

Monday, 8 December 2008

Chocolate Fish Mernio Beanie

I had a phone call from Amanda at Chocolate Fish the other day checking that my mailing address was the same as she wanted me to test the newest product in their range, a beanie made from the off-cuts of the T-shirts. Regular readers will know that I have bought CF stuff in the past and in 2007 they sponsored me more of their great clothing for the MTB Himachal. So I could be seen as biased but I'm not and you'll have to take my word for it.

The beanie is pretty light weight and packs up really small. Available in black, blue or green and made from 190gm super fine NZ merino (and made in NZ too) the price of £7.50 it is amazing value (others charge up to £35 for boutique brands!) At this price it will make a great stocking filler for cyclists and outdoors people.

So how does it work? It fits great under a helmet and the seams are a lot less noticeable than the synthetic ones I have used (Polaris and Lusso) It is not quite as warm but that's a good thing as after adding 250g of super-insulating polystyrene helmet you can over heat pretty fast. All the normal praise for super fine merino applies (no itch, does not stink after a few rides, works well over a range of temperatures etc...) Definately a bit of kit that will always be in my frame bag for unknown weather conditions or on my bonce at this time of year!

Buy it here and don't forget to look at the other stuff too as it works just as well and is a lot cheaper than other brands!

Alex

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Why and whats next?

Interesting thread on the MTBR Endurance forum asking why people push themselves in long races be it a 24hr race in a team or a solo attempt on the GDR. I was going to post until I saw that, what I assumed my answer would be, had been posted a dozen times already: Personal challenge, being outdoors, self sufficiency, ranking amongst other riders, etc.... The more I thought about it the more I realised that while those things did matter they were often secondary to the real reason.

I want to suffer. I want to confront my demons and I want to meet them on my terms. I want to beat them down and back into the dark corners of my mind. Simple.

I have yet to find anything as cathartic as a 3hr+ climb a vertical mile up a mountain pass in 80deg heat on a singlespeed. Perhaps primal scream therapy whilst having your legs beaten with a big stick might come close. I find the simple, repetitive almost trance inducing act of sitting and pedaling up a hill totally relaxing in a mental way. Sure your legs burn and your lungs heave but you shut that out after a while and you retreat into you mind, seeking out the dark corners away from the scorching sunlight and dust outside. You open doors, stumble across memories and feelings long buried. You laugh and cry, sing snippets of old songs and let the mental pain you uncover leave your body with the ragged breath from your lungs.

At the top you are not quite sure how you made it or what other riders might think of you. But you are calm, centred and happy; you suffered and survived. You went looking for pain and found the right dose, one that stimulates your mind and body enough to make it tougher but also aware of how frail it is. I hope that through seeking out hurt and self-doubt I can make my self not only a better person but also tougher for when an unfortunate event befalls me. I won't be shocked beyond action like a person thrown into icy water for the first time, but accept the pain and get on with it like those nutters who swim in ice covered lakes for fun...or perhaps they like the pain?

So whats next? I have had word of an 8day race in the Spiti valley run by the great guys at HASTPA who run the MTB Himachal. 480km and 16,000m of climbing, so shorter and steeper than the Himachal! The race starts on the 21st July and takes in a couple of 14,000'+ passes in the weird barren moon-scape of the Spiti valley. The start and end is in Manali (where I will find a real Yak this time!) which is a great place to acclimatise / recover. The real draw is the fact that the Spiti area is sheltered from the monsoon rains and is one of the driest places on earth...which after riding in the UK over the last 2-3years sounds great! Perhaps I can export some of our weather or set up a meteorological exchange program :) Details will be up here soon

I have been making plans for the 2009 MTB Himachal but I think that this new, bigger challenge might be the one. The only bad news is that the short time scale and the cost of the event and airfare. Don't get me wrong the event is cheap for the level of support and organisation you get (support jeeps, all catering, full medical team, emergency helicopter on standby and a pressure chamber if you get altitude sickness!) but on the wages of a bike shop employee it is big £££ to find at relatively short notice. If anyone would like to contribute in a small way to my taking part there is a Paypal Donate button on the top of the sidebar. I feel cheeky but failing a big company wanting to sponsor a lone singlespeeder in a race that only a small community of endurance racers will ever hear about I need to self-fund it. I am willing to send everyone who sponsors me a CD-ROM of the photos and copy of my write up when I get back.

Right enough of the begging and navel-gazing.

Alex

Photo taken by Cass Gilbert, shamelessly stolen by me.