A gap year
I’m coming back. The race that first sucked me in in 1995 has provided every emotion to me in the intervening years. Continue reading “2014 Peaks Prepped.”
I’m coming back. The race that first sucked me in in 1995 has provided every emotion to me in the intervening years. Continue reading “2014 Peaks Prepped.”
So… I’d had a season off ‘cross and was enjoying a bit of gentle riding, when there was this strange calling to get racing again… Continue reading “Cross Comes Calling”
I’m writing this very early on a Monday morning after what I have to assume was just a fantasy – a dream lived out in immense detail. I woke up ealy feeling still adreniline-pumped from a dream so intense that it felt like it had actually happened to me. Continue reading “Was it a dream? Did the Tour de France come to Yorkshire?”
I rode my bike a long way. And with a lot of climbing. That’s all. Continue reading “A Midsummer Bike’s Dream”
Took Lily and Elsie to do their first fell race this evening at the traditional ‘clocks just changed’ Liver Hill race in Rossendale. Run by our home club, it’s great to just be there, but with it being Elsie’s first running race, it was a special evening for a proud mum and dad.
It was almost fairy-tale, in that sporting stoicism shone deeply in my littlest girl (the type we’re just used to now in her big sister). Almost… but for a crumbling into tears on the start line. All the under 14s went off together, but ELsie’s age group, the under 8s, were to turn round a little sooner up the muddy course than the others, running about a kilometer. However, with all the Rossendale Harriers girls looking at her and saying “she’s so cute”, as they tend to, Elsie suddenly awoke to the fact she was the youngest and smallest under 8 (at just 5). She freaked and decided she would sit it out. By the time the 4 or 5 minutes of cajoling her for a jog (coincidentally on the course) had happened, she restarted the race (with me at her side) and went about it with quite scary levels of vigour. Job done.
She came in to claim her Cream Egg, belted it down her mouth, and that first running race experience was a historical event. Then she carried on running about with boundless energy, until Lily’s longer, steeper course was over. All of it makes me gleam with pride, as you can probably tell.
I had a great time in 2012 riding the inaugural Mills Hills Sportive – my first ever ‘sportive’ cyclocross ride. It had taken me a while to ride a sportive ride – essentially a fun ride – after coming from a background of racing. It’s true there’s a good measure of snobbery in the relationship between racers and sportive riders. The gap is morally huge, but let’s just say it’s complicated.
On the road, the snobbery is he same. Probably much worse actually. My first road sportive was the Fred Whitton Challenge – quite a few years ago now. I dealt with it in the only way I knew – as a racer. I obviously (to me) had no chance of posting an impressive time (with it being so daftly hilly), so I rode as a dedicated domestique and helped firstly Stu Reid and Lewis Craven – then latterly Rob Jebb to put down some record times for the 109 mile killer of a loop. To me – it was a job – some ‘part’ of being in a race. That’s how I learnt to handle sportive riding.
But then, at the age of 43, last year, I turned up at one – in the middle of a long ‘out of competition’ patch – the 65 Roses Holme Moss Classic – with anything but a goal. I was unfit (nothing really to be fit for – at the time!) and there was no motivation to speak of – a funny place. But at the second feed of that innocuous ride – at some isolated pub in South Yorkshire – I suddenly got sportives. I was just enjoying riding my bike with people around me I liked. How simple is that?
So, the Clif Cross combined Sportive Riding with Cyclocross (route here). Not only that, but it combined all that with Calderdale – a lovely fairly local haven for off-road bikes. Add to that Alan, Carl, Steve, SImon, Phil, Budge… all those types of folk, and it was just going to be the best day out I’d had since my off-the-bike time in December
Except, things happen. Despite it being a great day and a top ride, an early crash by Alan soured things. What we at first thought was a ‘shaken up, best drive home mate’ crash, actually turned out to be broken vertebrae. Not nice.
1 x 10 gears. 1 x Ti 29er bike. 1 x happy rider.
This setup is proving totally bombproof.
I’m up to 120 miles of heavy winter / spring abuse of my Titus Fireline Evo Ti. I made a few personal adjustments – I’m impressionable, but at times I’m old school. I still like to clip in, am not a fan of the extra weight a dropper seatpost brings unless I was riding in the alps on a weekly basis. And the gears… let me tell you about the gears…
I tested the single rings on offer from Absolute Black in the autumn on the cross bike (video here) and was impressed. I was keen to try this out on gnarlier, rockier riding on the mountain bike. It stands to reason that the weight lost by shedding a front changer, cable and mech is a bonus, and it is basically a damn sight tidier and cleaner in that department, too. It’s rocky rather than claggy round here (a different problem to the ‘cross scene) so I was keen to see if the concept worked – without the clutch-style rear mech that SRAM insists upon.
All I can say is that the chain has not even hinted at derailing.
Loving the bike – a light, forgiving trail bike adorned with some very generous On One Smorgasbord / Chunky Monkey ‘all mountain tyres make it feel incredibly tough, but nimble.
I feel blessed.
As a cyclist, at this time of year, it can be a bit of a daunting time. Ancient myth and unchallenged tradition dictates we should be out there getting base miles in our legs. But just look out of the window. 6 days out of 7 since early December, it’s been blowing up some nasty storm or just plain rainy. Cycling is for the committed. Clearly, that’s not me. No way.
In the 45 to 75 minutes per day that I can generally put aside for sport, I need an escape from the desk, and I feel blessed that I can run. It’s so simple. When the weather’s wet, or it’s blowy outside, too dark to ride in complete safety, or just plain freezing, running generally still takes place in the same gear, give or take a layer or hat. You’re ready in 3 – 4 minutes, leaving more time for the actual good bit.
In contrast, I’ve found winter cycling, despite loads of lovely weather-proof clothes, a decent lightweight winter bike and all-important mudguards, more and more of a faff. After a bit of excitement after getting back on the bike post-operation a month or so ago (as I blogged here for Planet X), it soon came home to me how miserable it can be at this time of year, too..!
It’s the layers, the washing, the bike cleaning, maintenance, the choice of route to allow for being blown about the place, or even planning to get blown home… the random mechanical cock-up, the odd puncture… it all adds up to something that just means more and more faff – when you have a choice… to run.
Not that running is without its dilemmas, of course. I do enjoy the option where I live of the moor, the woods, faster pavement runs, fulfilling open-space quiet ones. It’s not a boring option. It’s no cop-out either.. Here’s the science bit.
I’ve been reading mildly about views on this and although everyone has an opinion, it seems, the weight of it does tend to favour running as an effective supplement or even alternative to cycling – for cyclists. A 20 minute run taps into roughly same resources as a one hour ride (ref: http://roadcyclinguk.com/riding/cycling-winter-training-running-for-cyclists.html) and anyone who dips into running from time to time will know that – purely from how the body feels after 20 minutes. There’s fairly obvious use of more muscle groups in running, so fatigue effects kick in easier and hence lungs and heart have to work harder to sustain the effort.
It’s also, more anecdotally, good for the soul. The faff-removal in particular.In an October 2012 ‘serious’ bit of research by Øyvind Støren, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, even with the partial substitution of running for cycling, a rider’s total monthly training volume dropped by 18 percent during this preseason period, but the amount of training he did in the range of 90 to 95 percent of his maximum heart rate increased by 41 percent. We know from our other winter cycling alternative as cyclists (the loathed but necessary turbo trainer) that high Intensity workouts Increases VO2 max – so does running.
Although my running volume’s gone up a relatively huge amount this last few weeks, as the ‘January Run Map (right) shows, I doubt I’ll be doing any more running races this year than I have in the past. It’s a lovely, grass-roots, welcoming sport, as I know from the odd fell race I turn up to (usually two a year, max, these last few years) and the cross country leagues I’ve been taking (daughter) Lily to. However, I like to give things my best shot and in order to become a much better runner, I’d need to put in more time, vary my sessions, focus on different aspects… I only have room enough for one obsession and that’s biking. Running’s just a great, helpful alternative to training rides.
It’s the first cyclocross season I haven’t raced a single race since about 1994. If someone had told me a couple of years back that I was going to miss a whole season I’d have laughed at the unlikelihood of it all. But things happen. I was repeatedly dislocating my shoulder and, inevitably, things caught up with me and I needed to get the root cause addressed. That meant not only joining a waiting list for surgery, but also opting out of competition until it was put right (more thoughts on that here)
I managed to stay reasonably fit up until my operation on 25th November, but with the pressure of competing off, and a clear decision not to ride – at all – off road until I’m fixed – it’s amazing how the motivation to go out in poor conditions withers away. So much mañana attitude to fitness starts to kick in. Well… what’s the point in being fit if you don’t do anything with it, anyway?! I managed to run a lot more than I normally would. Running’s miles easier of the faff factor than autumn and winter biking, so it made sense to pop out and belt myself for 45 mins then jump in a shower, rather than do all that dreary getting-layered-up malarky
I went in for my operation, and woke up dry mouthed and feeling miserable as you do with general anaesthetic. I had been prepared for a long recovery period, with six weeks in a sling, and all the misery and inconvenience that goes with it. I must say, right from the day after the operation, I have been very pleasantly surprised with how things are going. That includes psychologically, too. Whilst there was some pain and inconvenience, it was nothing compared to the worry that I was going to be strapped up and uncomfortable for a few weeks. I’m certainly not uncomfortable, and I have a lot more movement than I expected to have. I started a mini blog (here) to chart the progress of my recovery. I had been all over Google trying to interpret how people recover from the specific injury that I had (Bankart Lesion), and whilst there was a lots of glory videos on the operation itself, there seemed little material on recovery progress. It helped me, it’s cathartic to sit down and write, or speak to a camera, about things like that.
So here I am, looking at a few weeks recovery, and getting really motivated in ways I can’t describe about where spring and 2014 will take me. You sometimes need something like this to make you focus on things like that.
Aside from physical and mental issues, I’ve been keeping reasonably busy by doing those things I don’t get much chance to do. Watching cyclocross races is actually quite good. No, really.
I have also had quite a laugh lately, by setting up a board on Pinterest with some shall we say unorthodox ways of carrying cyclocross bikes. It went a little bit viral, and gathered a lot of followers in a short space of time. Cheeky, I know. Schadenfreude is a simple, primeval way of making yourself feel better. It’s easy to be smug from the sidelines.
As usual, cheeriness also comes from mates. Teamie Alan Dorrington (right) has performed a great job of making me feel like I’m still involved with his Planet X cyclocross season in a subtle way, without making me feel envious or anything. Plus, he’s turned up at my house not once but twice, bearing pies and peas. That’s very good stuff.
Family have been ace, too, as usual. The girls are a load of fun and don’t really mind being dragged out to the odd cross race to watch as long as there’s something in it for them. Sweets, chips, etc. They
And so, to that getting started again thing. I have managed a couple of sessions on the turbo trainer already, with a rather nifty makeshift rubber sling, that basically holds my bad arm in a good enough position to perform the sweaty acts, without soaking my good sling in sweat. I will see a physiotherapist next week, and get some more meaningful arm-based exercises going, but it is just the best way forward for me at the moment to sit down and pedal. Your mind can get sorted out with a good bit of paddling. I spent so many years moaning about how miserable the turbo trainer is. Right now, it is the only thing that is keeping me sane. But crikey, I am so, so looking forward to getting out on a bike.
Thanks to Planet X for patiently twiddling their thumbs in the mean time.
Roll on 2014.
It’s 4 weeks now since I dislocated my shoulder (for the third time) and had what I now see as an epiphany. I was unceremoniously dispatched to the tarmac at the Colne Grand Prix about a week after hearing that I needed surgery on the shoulder. It was inevitable in hindsight that it was going to pop out when my next crash came. Anyway… that’s the physical. It’s the mental stuff that’s been preoccupying me since then. That’s come as some sort of a surprise to me, in a way. It’s hit me a bit harder than I thought.
Let’s get this straight. The decision not to race until this is sorted is unequivocally made and not in question. The pain that happens with my dislocation when it happens is as near to all-consuming as I have experienced. To race – either a bike or fell running, would elevate the risk of a fall and I’m in no doubt at all that I do not want that.
I’ve yet to get a date for the surgery but am happy for now to sit it out. (It looks like October, if you’re interested)
There’s a few things that have caught me by surprise since ‘the decision’.
The first thing is, life is about routine more than I realise. Bringing up children, I became aware of that. Routine is your best friend with children with so many things. It helps them immensely – and you – especially when they are very little. But I’m only just coming to realise how strong an influence the routine of my cycling life has had upon me over the years. This time of year is deeply engrained in me. The scene is familiar but the stage has been taken away. It’s the end of family holidays and about 6 weeks until the 3 peaks cyclocross. In my normal routine that means lots of things; coping with a minor weight loss burdon, running with the bike, hill reps, longer rides with the harder last hour, fine-tuning the bike, obsessing over minor frills, there’s a long long list (and each worthy of its own blog post over the years!).
But that’s all gone. I’m not riding the 3 peaks, and on the surface, that’s making things simple. Except it isn’t. It makes it strange, unfamiliar, partly exciting, mildly depressing, but very, very out of routine.
Another thing I have come to realise is that I ride bikes and run because I am competitive in nature. I have ‘tried’ riding my bike a couple of times now in the last four weeks, and also ‘tried’ a couple of runs. (These are – by my own strict rules – away from competition. There is a clear self-preservation thing in me keeping me from situations where I might fall until the surgery and recovery has taken its course). I actually enjoyed both riding and running. But only because I went fast. I hurt. My legs hurt. My feet hurt when I ran. My chest was straining on climbs on the bike. I got in that zone as soon as I could. And that’s why I enjoyed it. I did try, when I set off, to go easy. I’d love to think that I could just go out for a spin… or for a jog… just an amble. That’s not going to happen for me. Not easily, anyway. I do try not to go hard, but it’s hard.
So, for now, I’ve decided to carry on not racing as fast and aggressively as I can.
I thought I’d miss off-roading on the bike, but I don’t. I’m really unsure as to why, but have an incling that this really won’t nag me too much over the next six months or so. I can – for the time being – get my fix of the rural by running, when I want (I’m permitting myself to run off road – just not go silly downhill*). There is a bit more faff in off-road biking and I’m not missing that at all. I can pedal on the roads, and I can run off. So that’s fine. Surprisingly fine. For now.
It may be a break from sport, but my subconscious has never been so rushed off its feet. All my holiday, I read tales of people’s cycling adventures. Those of my team mate Alan off in the Pyrenees were particularly, disturbingly envy-inducing. But even everywhere we went on our holidays, driving to chunky altitudes in the Picos de Europa up swooping smooth roads, driving through the dramatic tree-smothered hills of the Basque country, the swirling Mediterranean Carreteras of the Costa Brava… all of it was basically one huge monologue-to-self about how the Planet X N2A would feel swooping around on roads like that. An itch that will have to remain unscratched, for now.
It bled into my dreams and my sleep was disturbed by a combination of bike pining and worrying about my arm popping out. An comfortable mix of a mind not at rest.
I’m starting to resolve some excitement about this rare opportunity to do a few different things this Autumn (aside from keyhole surgery and six weeks in a sling). There are a few things I can put to my advantage. I’m ‘watching’ my first 3 Peaks since 1994, for a start. I plan to do a bit of filming and make a short piece about a support team for the day. I can do things like ‘drink alcohol’ in September. That will be novel. I may even get to take Lily to some cross country races, or take Elsie to do a cyclocross without it all being a rushed compromise of a day. I can go on my friend Alan’s stag do without feeling guilty… and even attend his wedding in January without going straight there “filthy from the nationals” , as was the original plan.
It’s not all bad. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s different. I must make a point of keeping a half-full glass. Unless it’s someone else’s round.
* Just on climbs – see here
We tried to combine the needs of parents and children this year – mainly to success.
The first half of the holiday, having flown into Bilbao and driven from the Basque country to Asturias, was a week in the Picos de Europa. The Picos has been on my ‘must see’ list for about 20 years and the wonderful blend of real, rugged mountain stuff and pretty, rural streams, gorges, villages etc. seemed right for a holiday. The accommodation – a couple of miles outside of Potes – was really lovely. Spacious self-catering agri-tourism and a pool too, to help us cool down after a long morning out and about. We also enjoyed a trip up the Fuente De cable car and a rather longer-than-eastimated nine mile walk down in the building heat. It was ace though.
Lasting impression, apart from the sheer beauty of the place, was that of a nice mix of tourism / services and proper unspoilt tranquillity. You can get the balance right in some places. Heartily recommended.
So, from the ying to the yang. We needed to go to the beach. That’s why Brits go to Spain, after all.
Even the girls tolerated the driving quite well, really.
The second week was in an apartment in Tossa de Mar, Costa Blanca. Gorgeous pebbly beaches, impressive waves for the med, lots of swimming, nice pools, friendly campsite, cramped apartment, and lots of wine. It was fun.
Oh, and I grew a beard.
Last night was my last race for a bit. Colne Grand Prix is a race I have ridden loads over the years. It’s a great race. A very simple town centre criterium on a very simple course. The corners are fast and flowing, and it always has a great atmosphere with the course packed full of people on either side. I’ve ridden there the last nine years and only missed one, and still felt I had my 2005 podium somewhere in my 43 year old legs if I got it right.
Katie and the girls had come to watch. That’s a fairly rare thing; the pain of dragging two mildly moaning but very lovely girls to a freezing cold cyclocross course in November is bad enough to put anyone off for life, but a town centre crit on a balmy summer eve is something a bit different. And they had ice creams there. So I had my entourage.
The build up to the race was the usual Haygarth chaos. Despite being very well organised (for me), and getting there in plenty of time, on a glorious summer’s evening, I forgot my racing Jersey, so had one together from the rather casual ten-year-old T-shirt I was wearing. What a nana. Actually it didn’t look too bad really. Okay, it did. But I was there, I had a number on, and there was a race to be done.
The race itself was unsurprisingly very fast. Gone are those days when a 3rd cat crit is stop-start or slow. The first ten miles or so averaged 26.5 mph and only started to dip a bit as people settled in. There was no riding off the front on a warm night with little wind, so it was a matter of decompiling the forms and strengths of the riders around me and working out when to move up for the inevitable sprint.
As it worked out, I managed to avoid the inevitable sprint, by being right behind the almost inevitable crash on the final bend. With 250 metres to go, two riders in front of me hit the deck and that was it for me. I lurched over the top / side of them and hit the floor on my good side, but still somehow managed to pop out my bad shoulder.
Anyone who’s dislocated one before will identify with the all-consuming pain. I was calm in a way, reassured by knowing what I’d done and that 95% of the pain would be gone once they’d got it put back in in hospital. Panicked, to an extent about what Katie would think of me when she saw me in an ambulance – again. Never easy that stuff. But most of all, upper body movement of any description caused groaning, moaning agony. That needed sorting.
St John’s Ambulance were there and were ace. But they did run out of Entonox (gas and air!) after I’d relaxed my muscles for 15 mins or so. That was a bummer. When I eventually got to Blackburn Royal Infirmary and waited 20 minutes for some more Entonox, I was borderline passing out. Not being dramatic, just consumed by pain. Temporary pain though. Lordy, did I tote on that stuff when they got me some. It was amazing. I heard echos and weird reverberations, spoke jibberish, and saw in tunnels. But it relieved it.
They have to X-Ray you when they do these things. It’s easy and cynical to say they just have to follow procedure and it delays the process, but obviously they need to know what’s what, even after two prior dislocations of that shoulder. I was in for a bit of a surprise though. I knew they’d have to move me somewhat in my wheelchair to get the pictures they wanted, but after three blurry attempts to get the right angle, they leant me over in such a painful pose that something went click. I gurgled out some intense swearing, then took in so much gas that I could barely see straight. Only two minutes later did I realise that by moving me, the sonographer had accidentally manoeuvred my shoulder back in. I could have kissed her. But I didn’t. I was sweaty and half bloodied. And she was probably not that interested in me, to be fair. Don’t blame her.
We all rolled in to the house rather late last night. Priority was to get 5 year old Elsie tucked up after an excitingly late night for her – and Lily too – but Katie and I stayed up and chatted for a while. It didn’t seem right to go to bed – we were a bit buzzing. And I wanted to tweet about it. First things first. But it was only a few polite tweets, then bed.
It could be seen as a snap, spur-of-the-moment decision, but with some clarity I’ve decided to do all I can as quickly as I can do get the Labral Repair surgery (link) done that I’ve been put on a waiting list for. I’m not prepared to put myself in any more risk positions until my body is fixed. The potential advantage of carrying on until the op was highlighted to me last night as very marginal, if indeed of any advantage at all. Towel thrown in.
It’ll be very strange in so many ways to not be training for the 3 peaks this year. The first event without a Haygarth in it for 20 years, with my brother Phil absent, too. But I’m very clear that it’s the right decision and that I will come back strong and enthusiastic. I’m quite looking forward to the idea of watching the race, in a way. A whole cross season out will be hard to deal with too, but there will be more in 2014.