Out riding

Not running due to injury has been a pain, but today a ride out across the back roads was just what I needed to keep my head in the right place.

I slept well last night, really well. I'd arranged to do something today and after my first deep sleep for a long time it was nice to wake up refreshed and full of anticipation. The house was quiet so quickly shovelled down some breakfast and fluids and headed out on the road bike.

Out of our road and up the hill towards the Nannau estate, quiet road, nice warm up climb. Enjoying lots of energy in my legs, keeping my heart rate down. The sun just starting to rise, enough ambient light to ride without lights, but not fully light. Over the top by the precipice walk and then down into Coed y Brenin. A couple of big patches of ice reminded me that it was still cold, although the sky was clear and bright and the air temperature was up a bit. Dropping altitude, letting the bike run, searching for the good lines giving vision, only braking where the speed would put me in the bonnet of an unseen car. I clipped a stone, momentarily shaking my balance. But on down, over the Babi Las. The sound of my front tyre changed. Gutted, a puncture.

Whip off the front wheel, grab my saddlebag. Pull the zipper and the tag came away in my hand. A little bit of road salt had eaten through it. A bit of MacGyver style work with the valve stem and I got the little bag open. 10 minutes I reckon!

Tyre levers in, strip one side of the tyre off. Pull the tube, I don't even check it. I know it's a snake bite and I'm going to swap in a new one. Push the new valve through, a couple of turns on the rim nut. Work the tube in flat, work the tyre over the tube near the valve, run a lever round the edge reseating the tyre. Put the rim on my feet to put a bit of force on it to slip the tight part of the tyre over. Work round the tyre quickly to check no pinches, then use my favourite ever bit of puncture kit. The microflate nano from Genuine Innovations, takes about 5 seconds to dump its 20g of CO2 into the tube. Hey presto, a 100 psi front tyre again. Slot the wheel back in, do up the quick release and re pack the rubbish into my saddlebag. Getting the zip done back up takes about another 10 minutes and the use of a bit of brake cable. The tube change took about 5 minutes, the bag took nearly 20!

Back on the bike and following the Afon Wen up, and over to Abergeirw. A steady climb with a little kick as it steepens up. Ice still all over the place. A lovely quick descent across the moors to Pont Grible, only interupted by the biggest Buck Hare I think I've ever seen. Turn right to follow the Afon Gain and up across the “ranges” road. So called after shelling took place until 1959 from Bronaber, leaving loads of unexploded ordnance. Some terrific old pictures can be seen here.

Over the top, into the Llew valley, the Arenig looking great to my left, mottled with snow. A long sweeping descent, encouraging speed, great vision ahead. Loading the outside pedal with weight, standing the bike up on icy patches to ensure balance before throwing the bike back over again for the next corner. Tucking in, head down. The rythym only being broken by four gates.

In the soft grass around the gates are tracks from two road bikes, one shallow, one deep. I know from Strava that this was Andy Braund and Dave Liddy from the day before. I chuckle to myself knowing who made the deeper track.

Just glancing in time to spot Dduallt, an unusual mountain that has the Dee rising on it's slopes. I'm reminded I want to work out the route from the Arening to Ddualt. Looks obvious today!

Down into the outskirts of Llanwchllyn, as it flattens out I shove a banana and an energy gel into my mouth- not at the same time. Spinning, chewing, enjoying this amazing day.

I cross the main road and out through the main part of the village, before crossing the Twrch. A right turn back on myself and I settle in for the long climb up to Bwlch y Groes. Mainly seated, but a couple of the steep bits get me out the saddle. The clouds closing in, and some large lumps of snow make me think about the descent on the other side.

At the top, I pause to take a picture into the amazing valley at the top of the Dyfi. Launching down the other side is steep and fast though I'm cautious of the ice.

Now tracking alongside the Dyfi I eat my energy bar, and drink the last of my water as I pass Cwm Cywarch. The leper colony springs into my head, must have been tough back in the day.

Through Dinas Mawddawy and spin along the A470 to the base of the Bwlch Oerddrws. The first two way road of the day, and the first cars after 60 odd kilometres. On the lowest slopes I can feel my legs tighten with lactic acid. This is going to be a painful climb! The steep sections are out the saddle for as long as I can bear, before sitting and trying to get some relief before grinding some more metres. Over the top of the Bwlch and Cader Idris comes into view. A quick zip up, click into top gear and blast down the other side. Into the new traffic works, an irate Nissan Qashqai doesn't like me filtering passed at the traffic lights, revving his engine. I stay at the speed limit as I sprint to the next traffic lights, filtering passed 5 cars and getting the jump as the lights change. The new surface is lovely, lots of speed putting 2-300m between me and the first car. Finally as I cross the Wnion bridge the Qashqai comes passed. A middle age “lady” effing and jeffing at me about how cyclists shouldn't be on the road. I smile pleasantly. They rev off into the distance, clearly feeling they had won.

A kilometre or two home from here. Clear sky, tired legs but a great ride. My head had been buzzing about all sorts of things, work, friends and random stuff, but now relaxed.

Wash the bike down, drink a protein shake, have a shower.

Lunch and a swim with family sounds like a plan.

Great ride.

Prizes and Events

Its been a funny month, frantically busy at work, lots of miles in a van, but not as much training as I would like. Really pleased to receive my prize from Trail Running Magazine for the video I posted on YouTube. See my blog post for the video. The rucksack I got sent is the TNF Enduro rucsac. My immediate thought was that technology and design has come along way since I bought my last running rucsac. Even unladen the sac is stable, close fitting and super light. I decided to load it up and give it a long run whilst I was out searching for my
Its been a funny month, frantically busy at work, lots of miles in a van, but not as much training as I would like. Really pleased to receive my prize from Trail Running Magazine for the video I posted on YouTube. See my blog post for the video. The rucksack I got sent is the TNF Enduro rucsac. My immediate thought was that technology and design has come along way since I bought my last running rucsac. Even unladen the sac is stable, close fitting and super light. I decided to load it up and give it a long run whilst I was out searching for my “wall” more about that in a bit! I headed out, up through Coed y Brenin and out on to the moors by Trawsfynydd, I mixed the route up with a bit of road and a bit of trail and the sac was easily adjustable. I struggle a bit with the mesh pockets on the side of the sac, but this is my range of motion issues from kayaking, throwing and crashing bikes and not a big criticism of the sac. I’m keen to see if I can get a front pack to fit onto this as that will sort my carrying issues out for Marathon des Sable. Like my blog about the Salomon XR Crossmax trainers, the biggest compliment I can give the bag is that I didn’t notice it. I’ve been trying out various bits of nutritional stuff to try and help me out. Since Trail Marathon Wales in June, and the cramps I got after about 20 miles, I realised I’ve got to get my feeding strategy right. I’ve been trying electrolytes from Shotz – http://shotz1.com/ that I find pretty tasty and easy to glug down. They definitely get into the system quickly and I think keep me going longer. I’m trying to sort some energy gels that I find easy to get down. I’ve tried a few over the years and I don’t enjoy them but they definitely work. First of all I wanted to know where my “wall”is now I’m a bit older. The wall is effectively where all the stored energy (glycogen) in your muscles runs out and the body struggles for an energy pathway. Knowing where this point is helps inform you what your feeding strategy needs to be in longer races. I do things the simple way, to find my wall I skipped brekkie, only took a bit of water and went out running. My track is here. From 35km on I knew I was coming close to feeling the effects, and then at 37km it came at me like a steam train. My vision distorted, I started struggling with co-ordination and in my “Mary had a little lamb” voice check my speech was definitely not clear. I got home, blithered around the kitchen making some self made isotonic 50:50 Orange Juice and Water with a few tablespoons of sugar and a pinch of salt. Glugged this down with some crystalised Pineapple and felt normality return. I now know that when I’m relatively well prepared I can deal with 30km without extra fuelling. Hope I can stretch that out a bit! That run was the third day of the Strava Speedgoat 50km challenge. The aim was to run 50km in three days in “celebration” of the trail race in the states. I was pretty chuffed to rack up 79km and finish the challenge in 15th (out of 1282). Just heard that we’ve definitely got a place at the Original Mountain Marathon, and before then I’ve got the Helly Hansen “Beauty and the Beast” trail marathon in late September. For someone who isn’t mad keen on races its looking good. I’m also hoping this year to finish all of the Meirionydd winter series fell races for the first time. I often managed one or two but never the whole series. Finally, a quick update on 2012 miles in 2012, logged 1327 Miles so far. Starting to feel like it should be possible to get back on track. I’ve caught up from my month and a bit off so pretty chuffed. Head back down and on with life.  

Salomon XR Crossmax neutral

In two other posts (here and here) I've written about the problems I've been having with my trail shoes and damage to my feet. Choosing shoes for Marathon des Sable is something that is making me think carefully about what I need. I need a comfortable shoe, that is something I can forget about. About 12 years ago I had a pair of Salomon trail shoes that I used for an approach shoe, but never as a running shoe. I remember the last being really comfortable. I had a few reservations about the width of the heel before buying as I'm used to a narrow fell shoe and the Crossmax is more like a road shoe. I picked a mixed 8 miles for my first run in the neutral version of the shoe. About 3 miles of tarmac, 2 miles of forest track and about 3 miles of singletrack. It was wet, really wet. So wet that the area made the news for evacuations due to flooding. The quicklace system tighten the sensifit system, is a quick system, There is quite a lot of lace on the system, but it all tucks away nicely into the lace pocket. I'd say on the sizing that this shoe comes up a bit smaller than I'm used to, but not to a point of being uncomfortable. I think I'd pick a metric size up next time round. Out the door and into a slow warm up on the road. The shoes feel exactly like a road shoe, Good cushining and light and it wasn't wrong before I wasn't thinking about the shoe at all. After a little climb up to the start of the fire trails, nothing really changed, the sole unit has enough protection that big rocks don;t penetrate at all, making for a comfy ride. The singletrack starts with a downhill that loses about 100m in 500m, and here I was thinking about the shoe again. The reason is that trail shoes always have a lower profile tread pattern and I was expecting to slip and slide a bit on the really wet top surface on the singletrack. Pretty quickly I built confidence in the sole and it was biting nice through and finding loads of grip. I quickly got back to picking lines and not thinking about the shoe. So first impressions- the Salomon XR Crossmax Neutral trail shoe is pretty forgetable, and that is a massive compliment! I've added the shoe into my miCoach so I'll be able to keep an accurate log of the distance I do with the shoe.           
In two other posts (here and here) I’ve written about the problems I’ve been having with my trail shoes and damage to my feet. Choosing shoes for Marathon des Sable is something that is making me think carefully about what I need. I need a comfortable shoe, that is something I can forget about. About 12 years ago I had a pair of Salomon trail shoes that I used for an approach shoe, but never as a running shoe. I remember the last being really comfortable. I had a few reservations about the width of the heel before buying as I’m used to a narrow fell shoe and the Crossmax is more like a road shoe. I picked a mixed 8 miles for my first run in the neutral version of the shoe. About 3 miles of tarmac, 2 miles of forest track and about 3 miles of singletrack. It was wet, really wet. So wet that the area made the news for evacuations due to flooding. The quicklace system tighten the sensifit system, is a quick system, There is quite a lot of lace on the system, but it all tucks away nicely into the lace pocket. I’d say on the sizing that this shoe comes up a bit smaller than I’m used to, but not to a point of being uncomfortable. I think I’d pick a metric size up next time round. Out the door and into a slow warm up on the road. The shoes feel exactly like a road shoe, Good cushining and light and it wasn’t wrong before I wasn’t thinking about the shoe at all. After a little climb up to the start of the fire trails, nothing really changed, the sole unit has enough protection that big rocks don;t penetrate at all, making for a comfy ride. The singletrack starts with a downhill that loses about 100m in 500m, and here I was thinking about the shoe again. The reason is that trail shoes always have a lower profile tread pattern and I was expecting to slip and slide a bit on the really wet top surface on the singletrack. Pretty quickly I built confidence in the sole and it was biting nice through and finding loads of grip. I quickly got back to picking lines and not thinking about the shoe. So first impressions- the Salomon XR Crossmax Neutral trail shoe is pretty forgetable, and that is a massive compliment! I’ve added the shoe into my miCoach so I’ll be able to keep an accurate log of the distance I do with the shoe.