09
May
17

LVRC – The Tour of the Abberleys 2017

There are very few road races I do and only two I return to year after year. Three days of hard racing on courses that make me feel very fat. What is not to like?

This is the fifth time I have been and in no small part due to Mike and the excellent team of volunteers I already look forward to next year.

Em and I even stay in the same hotel year after year. This has almost become a holiday with pain thrown in for very little extra charge.

Enough of this though what happened this year?

The Prologue – a 2.5 mile largely uphill Time Trial

After a good warm up which included Em having a go at the prologue I lined up knowing I was fit and healthy which is a long way from last year. As always I am acutely aware that I only have so much power over such a short period.  I own a power meter but to be honest given the nature of the course I just ride damn hard, I never really go off too hard and never over cook the climb, I glance at the power here and there and if I think it is a little low I push harder. I was rewarded with a PB and thought I had ridden quite well. When the results came in though I admit I was grumpy as I was a long way down. That said it was PB and I wasn’t dying.

Stage 1 – it’s always thought of as the easiest day and largely flat, it is anything but with around 2500 feet and a nice torture climb you do more than once.

The pace was hard from early on and as often happens I found myself towards the rear of the peloton, it just happens, the following car must just be waiting for me to go ping. At some point a couple of riders got away, they were never seen again.  This year unlike last year I felt better and even though it was hard when the bunch split again on the climb I was able to avoid being gapped too badly and get back on without any real drama. Ironically in a smaller bunch I was still on the back but a few who had been in front of me were gone. I’d like to say I did something exciting or there was a drama but I didn’t and there wasn’t. The second lap was actually easier and as we got ready for the sprint any little efforts by people closed down, I had already accepted my lot, the intention simply to ride hard to the line and avoid losing time.

Reflecting on day 1, no drama and nothing to report. One the one hand I wish I had done more but in reality I couldn’t the standard is just too high and I am not good enough.

Day 2 – 3500 feet of climbing with 5 laps of a circuit with KOM points, you know this is asking for trouble. Happy to report I actually felt ok

Stunningly this stage was mental from the off, as soon as the car pulled ahead the first attack happened, there were a few less of us on day 2 and it was no surprise that I found myself at the back. I do try to move but I just drift back. What was noticeable this year was how easy I found the far side of the circuit. Lots of small climbs and little accelerations by people but at no point did I feel concerned, ironically I was most concerned by the speed down the main road. There were points when at 40mph I thought I am not sure I can l keep on here. The KOM climb is quite long but has a recovery which for me means I can close a gap off. The very top section to the line is also only a slope if that makes sense. It was off this section here that my only attempt at a breakaway happened as I chased after Paul Dring and we jumped over to the lead group of 4, sadly they sat up shortly afterwards and I never got another chance but it had shown me I could ride off the top.

Come the last lap I was actually thinking about how far up I could finish rather than gap limitation. Of course I had to work very hard across the flat and never really made it to the front but it was a good day.

Talking to Em in the evening I was happy with my effort but really concerned about what lay ahead tomorrow!!

Day 3 – its only 2300 feet but the stage is only 34 miles and nearly all the elevation in 4 climbs.

As expected there was an attack as soon as the flag dropped with the Brothers Dring and someone else(sorry I wasn’t there) who went hard.  The rest of the peloton wasn’t hanging about and we caught the leaders on the first climb. I say we, a few of them did I was hanging on for dear life. That said I got over the top and I can descent so by the bottom a good group was formed. We just about got back to the leaders as the 2nd climb arrived. First it was bye bye leaders and then it was bye bye Gobi. Stunningly I got over the climb and rode back AGAIN. As we arrived at the 3rd of the major climbs(lap2) the leaders were long gone but I was quite well positioned in the bunch and although very hard I made it over with most of the group. I think we lost a few but not me. Nice fast descent and we almost rolled along the bottom of the course.  Riding into the last real climb(I know the finish is on the prologue hill but..) and I was 3rd or 4th in the bunch but sadly they just rode away and I was toast. Pretty gutted really but although I had no real issue getting over I just couldn’t hold the pace. Once more I went full gas off the top and did everything I could to be close at the finish. Ironically I had just got to the back of the bunch when all hell broke loose and they went for home. Ha ha ha I was gone again.

Sitting afterwards looking back it was the best Abberleys yet for me as a rider and I had a painful but great time.

I have to thank Em for all her support, Mike for pulling it all together with his team and the other riders who make this the event it is. I swear the standard gets higher every year.

See you all next year.

Gobi

23
Apr
17

National Age Group Duathlon Championships 2017

So for those that didn’t know I have been down the Age Group road before.

http://dload.osb.s3.amazonaws.com/results/clumberclassic11results.pdf

Bronze at the British Champs in 2011, followed by a trip to Ireland for the Euros.

http://www.triathlon.org/results/result/2011_limerick_etu_duathlon_european_championships/6491

Given certain things in life I never even stayed for the presentation as didn’t expect to win. I just rushed home.

I stopped after this for a few reasons:

  1. Cost – it does seem a lot of money to do an event that in some ways is no more competitive than a good UK National level race.
  2. I still wanted to be a runner and had used the bike to protect myself after the injuries in 2009.
  3. Mainly though I didn’t really like the atmosphere at Age Group events. There are things I’m still not sure about but times change.

It has taken a while but sometimes you just need a little bit of time to come round to things. I think in effect I have been in denial. In some ways desperate to be accepted as a cyclist and not a runner on a bike.  I love CX, enjoy racing and get some satisfaction from a good time trial but fun and coaching has had me playing with triathlons and duathlons over the past few years. Triathlon is funny given I can’t swim but there has been no getting away from my results with 2nd overalls locally and even a high placing at a middle distance event. In Duathlons that has meant Age Group wins every time I line up and last year I won my local event overall.

Given all that I concluded that 2017 was to the year I got back in with the big fish.

First up was the Sprint Worlds qualifier at Oulton – 17th overall and 1st V45 – Seems I still have it, there is a blog about this one :¬)

Secondly I used a low key event as a tune up so still short runs but a longer ride on the TT bike – 2nd overall and 1st V45 – Really only wanted the effort and expected to be near the front as this was a local level event.

Finally onto the National Duathlon Age Group Championships at Bedford. This was to be the final part of “Is Gobi still competitive?”

We travelled up the night before which allowed us plenty of time to relax, eat etc and make sure there was enough sleep.

Steak for dinner was well received as was the reasonably early night. Sadly the 8am start still meant being up before 6am but this is where preparation matters. We had travelled with bread, a toaster, proper coffee and a cafetière set the alarm for 0545 and by 6am I had eaten.  Coffee I can pretty much drink at leisure until about 30 mins before the start.

We drove over to the track and the first surprise was how far parking was from registration – Oh well, turned out to be an excuse to test the bike. I did a few rides so called it a warm up.

Bike into transition and some shoes, I’m not a drama queen in transition and just put in the minimum, check in and out and then just leave. No shoes on bike, never learned to mount into them and no markers needed. I guess bright coloured bikes and common sense go a long way.

I don’t know about others but my primary goal before I start is to visit the bathroom for a final clear out. This was a good day with the last visit being close to the start. The strange battle was with the weather. Up until 5 mins before the start I was thinking base layer, gloves and arm warmers but almost last minute I stripped right down. This was a great move as come 0815 I was feeling great.

So that gets us to the first run – 37.10

My plan had been 36.40 so 3.40 a km and so I watched everyone run off again, a few kms in and I started to make progress which was great, what wasn’t so great was my pace which after 4kms had dropped off a little. It was windy but not that bad so I wasn’t that happy. Not for the first time though it dropped and stopped so in effect pretty even pacing just a little slower than I wanted.  I ran with another V45 for a lap and a bit and there is no doubt we kept each other on pace. Importantly I hit T1 feeling fine.

I’m not a stresser in T1 and I guess the one plus about doing a lot of events many years ago is I have a plan, never rapid but solid. Jogged out in my shoes and did a flying mount onto my bike, now it was game on.

Bike time – 56.09

The course had a few sharper bends and wind but again nothing to be bothered by except erratic riders :¬)  My laps were all within about 8 seconds fastest to slowest and with the exception of MattB passing me like I was on a shopping trolly all was ok. The only thing of note to happen on the bike was a strange pain in the side of my left knee, not sure on others but all I did was laugh and think “that’s a new one” while I carried on at pace. I had calculated my laps and peeled off but as soon as I headed to the pit I thought I had come in early.

Even less stressed in T2 as this is shared between triathlon and duathlon so even more trained. Silky with the only concern being a little pull in the knee.

Run 2 – 19.52 – pretty horse really and only consolation is how long it was

I didn’t exactly hobble out the pits but this was a very cautious run with me stressing about coming in early . The strangest thing happened though, my first mile was SLOW and I mean jog slow but as I went through the first mile everything went loose and I was down at 6mm, final stress as I passed the pit and saw MattB come out(turned out he had done too many laps and I had done enough). The second lap I was running faster than the first 10km and really chasing people down which is brilliant and frustrating at the same time. Stormed the line, under 1hr 55!!

Final result – 17th overall and 3rd V45 – another Bronze

Now I raced here with no idea where I would finish so of course I was very happy that my legs held up which given the issues I had had in the other 2 races was not a given.  The first thing  I wanted to know once I believed I had done enough laps was how far I was from the overall winner and the Age Group winner.

An eternity from the overall but close to 2nd and 1st in my AG, within hours I was anlysing where I failed. Failed is a strong word as this was a good race but I wanted to understand if there were things I could do better.

It has taken me a while to write this as I wanted time to reflect on my result, I stated before I didn’t appreciate it the last time I did it but this meant something to me.

http://chiptimingsolutions.com/british-duathlon-championships-2017?tab=Race%20Results#1_94D641

What it means is this.

I am a duathlete, there I said it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In this type of racing I am competitive at National level events.

6 years since my last National Level events and I finish with an Age Group win and an Age Group National Championships medal.

There you have it I am still competitive :¬)

Now I can have a little fun. Interesting ideas around fun I am considering longer events so have entered Little Pig in June – 7 weeks is enough time to prepare myself isn’t it ?

Watch this space I am sure there will be a blog

09
Apr
17

Contender ready ?

Would you believe we are considering doing “Little Pig” for a fun?  Strangely the length of the race is not the problem but the possibility of doing real damage to my back or ankle need careful consideration. That said I need a test event to decide which distances I will race more seriously next season as a duathlete.

Yes I have enjoyed this period of my training and without the pressure of pretending to be a triathlete(I do swim a little when I enter them) I have really trained quite well.

Last bike shakedown was on Tuesday night with a 300 watt 10 mile TT, crap time but good effort.

The rest of the week has been a mix of taper and recover from the weekend, must admit the pain in my quads has really surprised me.

Bring on Sunday !!

28
Mar
17

Tuning up

I have been out on the TT bike the last few weeks just trying to spend some time on it so I thought maybe what I needed was a tune up race before the National so a quick search in the internet and I found the Ashridge Duathlon. Off road run and TT bike friendly lapped road course. Entered the sprint as I wanted to do a hard effort off no rest.

Hotel booked nearby so Em and I cruised up on the Saturday evening and ate near the hotel. Mad all the drive plans for the morning and got to bed reasonably early remembering the clocks went forward.

Race day and initially all went to plan including testing deep heat on my legs (BLOODY HELL) to make sure I wasn’t cold. Thermal base layer and neoprene gloves were out again.  I put the bike in transition and then noticed the issue. There was no garmin on my bike!!! TWAT !!! Warm up became a tempo run to the car and back. No worries made the line nicely warmed up.

Off we went and I quickly noticed that my breathing was a little rougher than I would like, that said I settled in and ran a solid effort on the first run, went for the calm transition and a smooth easy exit . Jumped on the bike and although the garmin was running there was something frozen on the screen so I rode on how I felt. This went ok as I felt very strong on the bike, went hard on the hills and rode 2 pretty even laps. I knew I was relaxed as I hadn’t really worried about getting out of my shoes which seems silly as I think about it now. I also remember having to twist my leg as my left foot was on the ground. Another smooth and relaxed transition. Analysis showed that I can go harder on the bike which does back up how I felt. I had ridden myself into 2nd place so pretty good really.  As I left T2 the guys in 3rd and 4th were only just coming in so I felt pretty calm when suddenly I got that telling pain in my calf. Shortly after I was standing still and stretching it out. Not sure why I bother as I know it doesn’t work until it is ready.  Thanks to the stop my gap to first was bigger and gap to second smaller and relaxing was now out the question. Once running again I was back to 6mm and pushing hard until I knew I was totally safe which was about 200 metres from the line.

2nd overall and 1st V45 – solid day out off the back of a high volume week,  the only concern seems to be my left leg deteriorating even in a small race like this. I want to laugh it off but with less than 2 weeks until the A race I’m a little concerned.

Oh well, not a lot I can do now beyond make sure I am on the line fresh a week on Sunday.

 

 

 

 

13
Mar
17

Oulton Park Sprint Duathlon

In with the big fish.

I like riding a bike and to be honest in places we don’t want to go I admit that I rather love my running.

Thanks to Towers getting me to do some pacing I have been in reasonable shape for the last 3 years so as much as I am in denial I run quite a bit.

As I work with a few triathletes I have been dabbling a little with triathlon and doing a few local duathlons, safe to say I have been quite successful.

This got me thinking that maybe it was time to see if I have been avoiding the sport I am probably most suited to. YES duathlon. I’m not a brilliant runner or a time trialler but I am strong and can back up my efforts quite consistently.

I last had a go at National level in 2010 and 2011, I wasn’t shabby, got a bronze at the GB Age Group champs in 2011, raced at the Worlds and the Euros over those years. There were things at that point I didn’t enjoy and to be honest I was filling a gap as I expected to be back running ultras and collecting my Celtic plate vests running for Wales. Sadly more leg and back issues put paid to that and so the bike has become more and more the focus.

So for the first time since 2011 I was on the entry list for a World Age Group duathlon qualifier but lets be clear right now I am not interested in the blue suit. Not saying never but for now I just want to know where I am and do I have a future at National level events.

I came out of CX season pretty healthy this year but also lacking any real endurance as all my training has been focused on racing for 40 mins so I entered the draft legal sprint. I also banned myself from any MTB racing to avoid silly injuries. There is a possibility a certain bloke is reading this who once questioned my logic of riding an MTB just before a national champs after I crashed and cracked 2 ribs. Seems I have changed and he may have had a point.

Race day

So typical of 2016 I rocked up in terrible weather that only seemed to be getting worse. I registered and racked my bike placing my shoes under a bag with my helmet on top facing down. Not good for speed but somehow dry shoes and head just for a few minutes seemed a good idea. The briefing was long and I was cold even with 5 layers on but then it was time to start. I kept a base layer on and Neoprene gloves and as I stood on the start there was for a few moments SNOW !!! I was questioning my sanity.

Then we were off, cones down the side and running through water, people were flying and after a minute I was aware that my pace was 4.50 per mile and I was going backwards. Thoughts were like this

  1. I suck
  1. They will blow up
  1. Slow down before you blow up

Sure as my name is Gobi people started to slow and I started to move through what was basically the 3rd group.  It was still a shock to be so far down and I was concerned that I wasn’t at the races.

Afterwards I discovered I was 24th and 1st V45 so it seems old and slow was fast enough.

Onto the bike, after my slow transition I left the pit to flying mount my bike and set about making up places. (I put my shoes on and then run out)  It was minging out there but initially I was passing people so spray was not too bad. I caught a pair after a few laps and for 1 lap they did a turn each before I pulled away, it was a handy break in effort but vision was hard and the rain kept coming.  On lap 3 I had the only scary moment when I approached the hairpin at speed and some poor young lady just didn’t understand my request and veered across me twice, I don’t believe I was rude but if I was sorry and I hope you had a good race.

With about a lap to go I was just pushing hard, focused on the run but unbeknown to me at this time starting to suffer in the cold, stats showed my heart rate drop yet I had no perception that my effort had dropped off. Sadly the second I got off the bike I knew things were bad. That said what was obvious was that I could ride a bike.

5th fastest overall on the bike and 1st V45, I was always confident on my biking as this track had the sort of recoveries I am used to in Cyclo cross.

Back to the race.

I dismounted and was instantly aware of cold feet, tight calf and tight hamstrings to the point I was not really running as I left T2.  Distressed that my body was breaking down I just kept pushing forward hoping I would warm and loosen off but as I approached the hairpin the left leg went PING. I stood and watched a people ran passed as I stretched, all my good work drifting away. After what felt like a day but was more like 60-90 seconds I was running and I mean running, last KM was 3.47 not brilliant but a start contrast to the first 3.7kms of the 2nd run. I even got back a couple of places.

41st for the second run and 2nd V45 – this was not good!!!

I crossed the line shaking badly wth Em on hand to throw clothes at me.

Next thing David appears and shouts, welcome back you just won the V45 :¬) Turned out I had beaten all the V40s as well.

Finally having some food I sat there with Em and I discussed my happiness at being competitive and my distress about the state of my legs in the cold, was more the state of me. If it had been standard distance I would not have finished. It is however very hard for people to understand that finishing 17th overall and 1st Vet I could be disappointed yet somehow I was.

Why? I still stand on a start line and race for the overall first and my biking had given me a shot at the top 10, my first was hard but not over the edge so to give up 60-90 second on the 2nd run really hurt.

Plans for next cold event are already coming together but hopefully not needed in April.

Bedford for the National AG champs and this time I will be back on the TT bike and doing the Standard distance, like I said earlier, I’m testing the water and seeing where I am OH and deciding what I want to do next year duathlon wise.

So as far as short distances go the answer to the question ” Is Gobi competitive at National level?” The answer is a resounding YES !!!!

Race well and stay safe

Gobi

08
Jan
17

National Cyclo X CHampionships 2017

So I’m sat here gutted as I try to reflect on how my race ended.

How did it end? Oh that was my standing at the top of a bank leaning over my bike in pain. Ironically not through crashing or mechanical issues but through being broken by the course. Yes me, I was broken by the course.

I don’t want to bore people so,  those who know about  my medical issues know but suffice to say it was my left leg that was beaten by the course with my DNF in effect caused by severe cramping in my calf. Sitting here now I am still in pain but I am walking normally which tells me I stopped in time. I’m tender from my knee to my ankle and things are a little discoloured but I’m ok.

What about the course? I know this is the golden question. Right then, the course was brilliant, a mix of off camber running climbs, riding climbs mud and tarmac. This was a true CX course and a challenge for even the best riders. I think one of the things that hurt most is I loved the course and was racing well(by my standards)

I had decided this year to play to my strengths and use my running where I felt I could save time and ironically it is this factor that was my undoing. Both parts of the course where you had to run for any length of time were steep and off camber putting all the pressure on my left ankle and leg and well after 30 plus minutes of racing the leg said no more. As I came off the banking and went to mount there was just pain. I rode on a little but had to unclip quickly then tried again but as I prepped to descent the banking (on the bike) I stood up and ouch!!. Pulled over and did contemplation:

  • It’s the nationals…
  • It’s my health…
  • There are other races…
  • It’s the nationals ..
  • It’s my health

You get the picture and all happening in seconds.

This is one of the few times in my life where I actually realised that my long term health meant more to me than just being top 50, I’m not a completer so if I had carried on it would have been all in and risk everywhere but it doesn’t change the fact sat here now I am wishing I had tried to carry on. You just think but I’m not that bad now.

The mind is a crazy thing isn’t it ? 

Analysis

Team Chris worked the pit for me as Em was away swanning it up in Norway. Having chatted before hand we had everything sorted. Thank you gentlemen, showing the mind is crazy I feel bad for letting them down as they worked hard for me.

When I stopped I was ahead of my gridding, I hadn’t crashed and had stuck to my pre-race plan.

I still don’t understand how some people seem to have wheel traction in the mud and I get wheel spin. I was using Limus and FMB Super Muds and at some points I just pushed the pedals and didn’t go forward. Anyone ?

I still think using my strength, ie. running is a good thing but again I need to work on my bike skills, they are improving but I know I can do better. With that I do hope to attend more of the classes that Team Chris put on and of course more MTB racing.

Other questions around my food, and last few days prep need to be looked at but I did taper and felt good on the line so not sure that will lead anywhere.

There are a few weeks of racing left and I shall attend with Em so she can get some practice and for me as I just love to race but I am starting to wind down now and think about my road plans.

Have fun

Gobi

21
Dec
16

National Trophy Cyclo X

​CX National Trophy 

Now seems as good a time as any to write that blog that cover the entire series and a little diversion. 

Decided this year I would enter all the rounds, I have been in good shape, not crashed too often and really I just wanted to do National Trophy. Em sees different parts of the country from a muddy field usually :¬) 

Before round 1 I got a few rounds of CX in locally and things looked pretty promising so I knew I had made a good decision. 

As for all trips Em and I get a hotel away so we can always be there nice and early on the Sunday for the pre ride. Probably the wisest thing I have done this year and something that has been repeated at any event we travel for (SO ALL CX RACES).

The most alarming thing has been the weather, previous years from October I have been COLD plain and simple but this year I have been warming up taking layers off and even contemplating my tyre choices rather than going straight to mud ones. 

So as always with National CX my battle is not to be last, a harsh statement but when you line up and see 50 riders knowing most are top 5/10 at local leagues and then you add in all the winners you know it is going to be a tough day. Ok I confess I had hoped to may be break top 30 this year if I got a good day. 

Ironically my best day was round 1, early season and pretty dry ground saw me finish 33rd. You can imagine I was feeling buoyed by this and local league riding confirmed I was holding form. Sadly there is no happy ending to this tail as round 2 saw me drop a few more places and as for round 3 up Durham way, probably deserves a blog all to itself but suffice to say I was poor(no jets at all), my skills were poor  not helped by my lack of jump. The weather was cold (up North so obviously). Just a really bad day and in the end I was thankful not to come last. I was however lapped so another goal is set for next season. 

Round 4 was comedy hour. We travelled all the way to Ipswich, good job Ems parents live up this way otherwise it really would have been a wasted trip for us both. This was a crit race no other way to put it. I had the almanzo tyre on to warm up and it felt good. I was doing 20-30 MPH over the grass, there was nothing technical on the course so this was to be my day or was it ?

It wasn’t as it turns out. Good start and good course reading saw me in a small group just off Crispin and really feeling good. Rounded the corner at the pits and passed the entrance as my wheel came out the frame. Too far to run on a crit race course so walked into the pit exit and a DQ. Race lasted 3mins and 31 seconds!!!!!! Em was concerned as she had done the wheels but I wasn’t as I trust her. In the end it turned out I had a broken frame :¬( but I did learn that if you are between the pit entry and exit you can go backwards on the course. The only real positive from the weekend.

More good racing even in the dirt happened at local level so with round 5 approaching, a “new” bike in the offing I was ready to go. 

Mud bath time, not as bad as the last time at the venue but it was bad. Warm up told us we would need to change bikes multiple times and Em was in the worst pit in the world. Not idea for sure. Plan with that in mind was 2 laps on the bike so of course that didn’t work. Went past the pit AGAIN looked down and there was my chain on my leg. This time I had a muddy tree section, yes it was long but I thought what the hell and I ran, even got a compliment on my speed. Em was ready with the spare bike and off I went after the people I had got behind. I was riding better than ever so made progress and Em produced the A bike so off I went again. Happy days… ER NO. I got a front puncture and as luck would not have it I was in the same woods so at least everyone was going slow. The fact I rode the bike out is probably the best indication of how much I have improved. Sadly not enough to stop me getting lapped but in other ways probably the most satisfying ride of the year. 

Results – 33, 36, DNF, 43, 43 – never last 

Not really everything I wanted but I see a lot of positives.

National champs left to go and really hoping for a good ride to end the serious part of the season. I have already decided to do National Trophy again next year as it is great and if honest I just like spending nights away in different parts of the country. 

Big thanks to Em for ALL the cleaning feeding and traipsing around. It is a big ask what you do for me and I appreciate everything you do.

Big thanks to Morgan Jones and the team at Banjo Cycles for their work when I break stuff. (Happens a lot)

Big thanks to Martyn at Race Ware for the continued support of my ORANGE garmin mounts.

Happy Mud Plugging 

Gobi 




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