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Friday, 27 May 2016

Ride the trail... be free!

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur... no time to think... and no time to blog. So thought Id catch everyone up in the goings on in One Challenge At A Time World.

I got a new bike... it wasnt cheap and had a few 'accessories' added with The Tour Divide Race in mind (more about those later). For those of you that missed previous updates... the Tour Divide is an underground race from (shhh say it quietly) Banff in Canada to the mexican border in New Mexico. 2700 relentless off road miles... with possibilities of (included but not limited to) snow covered passes... hike a bike sections... grizzly bear encounters... mud... rain... searing heat and freezing cold. Add to that altidude (11000 ft passes) and 39 crossings of the continental divide mountain ranges and no wonder its billed as one for the crazies! ๐Ÿ˜€

Having the wonderful opportunity to follow Mr Mike Peters on tour round the country for a week or so whilst swabbing people for the bone marrow donor list... it was the ideal to get some miles into my new set of wheels and more importantly.. my legs. Wherever there was a gig... I found a forest or mountain bike trail centre nearby and the baptism by fire began! Starting tentatively on the blue (easy to moderate) runs ... I soon got a bit bored of wide gravel trails and flat (ish) sections. However a red run in Scotland almost changed my mind.. first encountered after hearing an 'oh fcuk' from one of the crazies in training (im being nice.. they are almost as mad as me).. david j had rounded a bend at speed to find a drop off well over 6ft high. Needless to say... the bikes were carried down.

A few solo runs ... and the bike was holding up and handling nicely... Chester... Exeter... Preston... and then came Newcastle and Hamsterly Forest. I had done the blue run the day before and one huge climb later with a bit of nice singletrack.. I singularly decided that it was too easy for me.. nicola and david j. So the next day we set out for red.

David had it easy for a few miles... his chain broke... and not being equipped(for the last time) with a chain tool and quick links) he got a push 4 miles back to the trail centre and bike shop. It was a good workout. My arm muscles were screaming by the end and david professed that his legs hurt from maintaining an aero position... hmmmmm
Back to the red run...

It had its climbs (or at least the one climb that went on forever) but I reiterated that the point of climbing on a mountain bike is to reap the downhill reward and WOWZA! Rolling like a rollercoaster and at similar angles.. the start of the downhill had hearts in mouths. Skidding round the corners at breakneck pace.. we were brought to a screeching halt at the top of some rock steps by someone who had come unstuck and crashed a little. Once he had extricated himself from the tree I followed... bumping down the steps then flowing swiftly through the end of that section. I turned round .. expecting David to be right behind me... and I waited... and waited. Turned out he had bumped slowly down the steps.. only for the bike to come to a sudden halt... and him to keep going! (Dont worry David... last laff is for you). Fortunately... no bones were broken.

And so.. that pretty much leads me up to today.

In between then and now... an annoying click in my pedals (cheap crappy ones) turned out to be a broken bottom bracket and I got that replaced (under warrantee) at the same time as purchasing some swanky flat (i.e non clip in) pedals. AW Cycles in Reading deserve a huge shout out at this point (once again) as I have taken a nice mountain bike and have begun transforming it into a Tour Divide Machine. I could hear the screaming in their heads as I asked for bar ends to be put on along with bar tape and they looked over the additions to my bike... a small bar above the handlebars to fix my Garmin GPS and front light.

This morning was post gig in Liverpool.. following an overnight drive to near Sheffield ready for the last (sob) gig of the tour. The advantage is that was near Sherwood Pines trail centre which possessed some nice trails.
Despite the 3am check in... I was up and ready to roll in the forest at ten am.

The next bit is about kit... so you may want to skip...

Bar ends... I love them!! Uphill made easier and flattish gravel roads = cruising hand position. Very lightweight carbon and small profile so dont get in the way. They will be staying!!

My SON 28 dynamo hub and ewerks usb charger... so far... so excellent. They have pretty much kept the charge up on my phone despite constant picture taking and other usage and even a low speeds! Excellent and well worth the extra money.

My wellgo pedals... light and kept my feet pinned to them except over the occasional drop off landing. Didnt collect a build up of mud.

Ok... new kit review out of the way.... so to today (hoping ive kept everyone reading until now)

It started badly... stumbling round in my cycle shorts in a sleep addled state... i decided to apply arse cream (essential)... only picked the wrong tube... turns out the deep heat like cream burns!! And I mean burns!!

So after ten minutes of hopping around swearing... I was finally dressed for the day... bike was on the car and ready to go.

30 mins later... in sunshine no less... I was breathing in fresh pine scented air and gazing at the dappled sunlight coming through the trees. The birds were singing (cliche I know) and I felt alive.

Given that this week I could easily be accused of being very lazy... a slight cold keeping me inside and on the sofa for two days straight... it was really good to feel like I had a bit of energy back again. And the surroundings I was in infused me with more.
I set off on a warm up lap of the blue run... with its short sections of singletrack but nothing adrenaline filled. Still it served its purpose cos I was huffing and puffin like a steam train at the top of one climb.
It was so lovely and quiet... too early for the masses to be around and I had the forest to myself. Squirrels running up trees (no suicidal ones today) and birds coming to say hello whenever I stopped. I didnt even have my ipod on. (Decided I may need to spend some time without music whilst waiting for the ipod to charge out on the Tour Divide). Not that I was bereft of music... Time... all we have is time... one of Mike's new (and unbelievably brilliant) songs... was echoing in my head space. Much of his music and his example provides a reference on how to aim to LIVE life ... and these thoughts resonate within me.

Before long the blue route was completed so I found the start of the red and set off with purpose.

It had singletrack from the start... root and rock strewn ... with an appropriate helping of mud to slide about in. Where there wasnt mud .. there was gravel filled bermed corners to take at speed and lean into. Yup I was having fun! In places the trees closed in with the trail tunnelling through .. leading to the sunlight.

It is a beautiful... serene piece of the world... that is until the hoards of cyclists began to appear.  Now reasonably proficient and with a modicum of fitness regained... I even occasionally overtake. Of course then I have to speed up so it doesnt look like a fluke. Bloody knackering this racing lark ๐Ÿ˜€

I caught up with one poor chap who had been convinced by his mate that it would be easy to go from being a 'roadie' to doing the red run.. lol

His mate was kind enough to warn me about the two drop offs on the next section after the rock garden ascent. Good oh! He cautioned his friend to go go left to avoid the obstacle and then set off at a rate of knots.
Ok so both me and the poor chap came slightly unstuck in the rock garden... momentum lost and bang went that one. Still it was only short and I managed to get going again... spinning my way to the top .. to find a sweeping downhill bermed trail. ... Then came the drop offs... not too steep... i did bounce a bit on landing and almost came off.. just managing to avoid a head first dive or a bruised coxxix (going for that spelling!).

The calories had been totally drained by the point I swerved through the last .. Very bumpy section... fortunately bacon and brie was on offer.

Then back out again and was determined to get a few miles in and to make them tough... so back out to the red run...

I knew the trail now and confidence (make that overconfidence) was flowing through me. Charging down the trail ... swerving round the corners... leaning hard into them ...
And then... my world went sideways... possibly even slightly upside down... my head (fortunately helmeted) crashed against the hard packed ground.. (where is the mud when you bloody need it?) I might have seen stars shortly before my shoulder crashed into the ground followed by the pain of my bike landing somewhat on top of me. Damn that hurt...
I lay on the ground... slightly dazed.... wondering if the pain in my shin area meant I had broken something. That pain dulled... overtaken by the pain of my hip... which must have hit shortly after my head and my shoulder.

Two cyclists pulled up and helped me get my bike off me and waited to check i was ok... the blokes helpful comment was 'you musta taken the wrong line'... no shit sherlock.. the right line wouldnt have ended up with me smeared across the trail... at least general assumption would suggest๐Ÿ˜€

I pulled myself to my feet... noting that I could weight bear... and that a lump had already formed on my shin... either that or I had dented my leg either side of it. Either way... I had escaped with nothing but bumps... bruises and a bit of missing skin. Worst thing was... I didnt have my head cam on... it would have been fun to share!!

Funnily enough I took the next few bends or twelve slightly easier... partly cos my leg hurt with every bump I encountered but also slightly dented confidence. It soon returned however and the corners got faster again.

For all my nursing friends out there...
I never lost consciousness
My pupils are equal and reactive
I dont have blurred vision
I dont have a headache
Bright light doesnt bother me...

Neuro obs will be done hourly for 4 hours!

I think I did the red one further time though its all a bit hazy (not because of the crash) and then did a warm down lap of the green 'family friendly' track. Whilst this track was easy... on good gravel paths... with the pot holes filled in... this was a chance to see how the bike would go on a surface akin to much of the Tour Divide track surfaces (from what I have read) Gravel and dirt fireroads make up a good percentage of the Tour Divide route and this was similar... (without the altitude.. climbing.. bears etc) Turns out the bike runs nicely on these trails too and I whizzed round (legs aching slightly... rest of me hurting like hell lol)

That was my warm down... and as I hauled/eased myself into the car... having cleaned my bike of course... I reflected that it had been a good training day. My body will no doubt disagree early in the morning when I prise myself out of bed... into my cycle shorts for (a slightly shorter) day 2. Then the last gig of the UK Mike Peters tour...

Today I was beaten up and knocked to the ground... but as always I stay free