Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Rat Race

The Marquis of Darkness and muskateers Jack and Andy recently completed the Edinburgh urban Rat Race in an amazing 18th place. This over the 2 day and multiple venue climbing/running/biking/map work/rafting and via ferrata course. Top work youse guys...

pic stolen from


I received some new coffee to try the other day from my main man at Imperial Teas of Lincoln. I had decided to order some lighter, more complex beans as I occasionally like to sip a more acidic, brighter brew in the afternoons. So, the recommendation was Galapagos Cristobel. The following is from the website,

"466. Galapagos Cristobal Island £6.70per 125g. This rare and unusual coffee of superb quality is, naturally, grown without the use of chemicals. The plantation was founded in 1875 and planted with the old bourbon bean. San Cristobal, which has an abundance of fresh water, also has a unique microclimate and the required altitude to produce a rich flavoured, full bodied coffee balanced by a sweet acidity. In the early nineties the Gonzalez family revived the island’s Hacienda El Cafetal, which had been abandoned for many years. With further expansion of this plantation forbidden because of the archipelago’s great natural importance production of this coffee will never amount to more than 2000 bags a year. With three different sea currents - the Humboldt, El Nino and the Crownel having a profound effect on the climate, crop sizes are usually only around 500. "

I can tell you that despite a penchant for high roast, this bean is splendid. Fruity, acidic, a long, long drawn and satisfying aftertaste which I find unusual for the lighter roast beans. Seriously refreshing and an excelleaccompanimentent to a good read on the sofa.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Haiti comet.

Sometimes there are moments you think you will always remember. One of those happened to me on Monday. Trina and myself had built up Trina's new Voodoo Wanga bike...pretty sweet indeed (thanks Tim, Ag and Sideways Cycles). We went for a test run and on the promise of a gin and tonic on top of the local hill, we slaved upwards in the heat.

Descending down, I looked back for a second and saw Trina with a look of pure happiness...I live for those moments...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

In on the kill taker.

This post brought to you by insomnia, Fugazi and coffee.

2 ideas have kept me from sleeping the last couple of nights. So today was a day of action.

First: I have a pile of 26" wheel stuff lying around. It's either sell, bin, give or store. So: I decided to speak to Tim at Sideways Cycles and a shiney red 14" Voodoo Wanga one is on its way to us as we speak...built up with some light parts and wheels it should make a sweet bike for Trina to try...theme is Darth Maul. It will be interesting to see what the ride is like. Its a small package but Joe Murray always did design the sweetest bikes.

Second: all I'm going to say at this time is I am going to be circulating some plans soon for a project I am going to call 'Pirate Bike'.

Give me a month and I'll give you more...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Smartly, me lass...

Jelly Belly

Some interesting stuff from the last few days. First, a column posted by my friend Biff about coffee.

Jelly Belly are doing a Sport Bean. This could be the answer to your prayers.

My Black Sheep forks are on the way.

So far, I have saddle, bars, and pedals. Still out on the rest of the stuff...but I9 ( may feature if I feel like haemorrhaging money.

The Tour continues. I have to say though my interest wanes compared to the spring classics...maybe it is all the doping.

I ordered a new cycling top...there is a catchy theme here...


Lastly, it's not long to go...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Thoydy Thoyd and Thoyd

Fear of failure

Ever since I entered the Wilderness 101 there has been a feeling of trepidation: of entering territory unknown. I had never ridden (and still have not) 100 miles entirely off road in one sitting. Truth be told I have never ridden 60 miles over terrain as challenging as that found in Pennsylvania.

So, I started 'putting effort in'. I knew over the course of last year that I was aiming to do some of the longer self supported races that are run currently; the Vapor trail 125, various 100 mile races and even the Kokopelli trail race or Grand Loop to name a few.

In order to do this, I felt I needed a 5 year plan. First phase: race and survive a season of Merida 100km races without injury, at a good clip, and try to slip in a solo 24 hour with no support, no sleep and no stopping for more than 1/2 an hour. 2005 ticked these off.

Next was to try and *race* a solo 24 hour. Definition: prepare and do as well as I can, under maximum effort. This is scheduled for Sleepless in the Saddle this year, in July. Concomitantly I aimed to continue doing Merida's but also knock off some century rides. Initially, on the road, then mixed, then off-road (laps if necessary). Again, so far this year, despite minimal riding it would seem, I am at the stage of relatively comfortably riding 100 miles on road (not fast tho'!) and a mixed route roughly 40:60% ish? Was fairly straightforward.

Next is the 100 mile off road effort, which will be the Wilderness 101, if I can't do a lapped off-road route in Scotland soon. This allows some form of 'qualification', along with another event, for the Vaportrail (which has been cancelled for this year btw, but may be ridden as a 'bootleg' event).

As a side line to this physical effort, there has been increased interest in equipment. Lightening, minimalising and collecting kit which will allow me to ride safely over very long distances at extremely low payback in terms of weight carried and lack of functionality.

Research is continuing and once I have a good water filter, I feel I will be ready to tackle multi-day wilderness riding as a learning experience before doing so in an event such as Kokopelli or Grand Loop.

What have I garnered recently? Well, the Merida this last weekend suggested that in 33 degrees I need more water than can be held in 2 large water bottles. i.e a hydration pack. This is a little disappointing as I have worked pretty hard to *not* use a hydration pack, and thus avoided some back pain issues. I suspect I have to use the minimal amount of kit, 2 water bottles and a partially full pack-bladder for success.

Pacing is also important. Over the last 12 months I have been trying to haul the effort in when I start to 'red line'. This has worked well. I now have much better staying power.

I have also worked hard to get a pre-race regime sorted. Anyone who knows me well will be aware I sometimes have a wee dram prior to a ride, especially with friends around. I do not apologise for this!, as it is probably the main reason I enjoy this pastime so much. However, I do tend to drink minimally, sleep muchly, eat well and prepare kit prior to racing much more thoroughly now. Diet both prior and during exercise has been an interesting area of study.

I also know my body a bit better. I ride less in general (especially tis year, what with one thing and another) but I make the most of it when I do.

So why the fear?

Because I am still *totally* unsure that I am able to finish the Wilderness 101. If I can't this year maybe no worries for the 5 year plan. BUT if I can't, and can't envisage *ever* completing it, the dream may well finish here.

You know what, tho'?

This is most likely the ultimate reason for attempting it...

Dream big.
Then try to live that dream...

oh, 33rd at Builth Wells.

S'pose I'm happy enough with that. Would have liked 10 places higher...

Monday, July 03, 2006

Merida and me, it's over...

Just back from Merida number 3. Builth Wells this time and so very sunny and warm. Preps were good and lots of sleep before hand. Felt easy and strong as I moved up to the lead 20 or so group. The usual exemplary course marking was pretty poor this time around, one wrong turn led to a very short detour. Climbing well and smooth though, so no worries.

Seems to be the promise of 'new trails' has entailed a madman or a blind sheep with a strimmer roughly clearing bits of fern, leaving 2-6" grass to ride over. Either that or it is unconsolidated trail over pine loam. Still, I'm figuring this is to get some of the usual end-of-course grass climbing cut out.


Another wrong turn due to dubious markings, after many more instances of markings being vague or needing to slow down to see them. This time me and another geezer headed down a 1:10 road for 1+ km. Then an unsigned junction. Oddly enough I didn't at first think this was all that unusual, but the other guy figured we were off course, and so it was. Climbed back to course, lost a lot of places and kept it charging trying to do some catch up. What followed was a melee of grass climbing or rolling (!) on what at times was undoubtedly sheep track (on steep hill which did not allow for pedaling without hitting the inner pedal, and fern covered tracks which had in essence just been flattened by a quad bike. I estimate ~80% of the trail was this sort of energy sapping crap.

I feel like I have been taken advantage of. Each year under the promise of 'new trails' some useless new non-consolidated trail appears which is anything but weather proof (as proven at the last Rhayader race) and mind bendingly frustrating to ride.

This may sound like sour grapes, but I have been a stalwart at the Merida's for 4 years, and have advocated their benefits. It's time to be honest and tell it how it is: that was rubbish. A poke in the eye.

I probably didn't do too bad, and as resistance training for Wilderness 101 it was probably useful. But the only race that I will do if any next year is Selkirk, because it is on bike trails. Or at least trails. This means it is rideable. The challenge comes from the rocks and roots and technical aspect along with the gradient and distance. Not whether you can keep pushing a gear along grass tracks.

I *am* angry and more than that disappointed. Has something happened to land access in Wales we need to know about? Over the last few years it has been proven that there *are* good trails there...

MTB Marathon need to get their act together.