Monday, 27 April 2009

Enduro 6

In the few days running up to Enduro 6 the weather forecast was not looking good. In fact, it looked like rain was going to be the order of the day; on went the mountain kings tyres in preparation. However, as race day approached the forecast seemed to get more and more optimistic and the blue patch of rain covering the weatherman's map was replaced by an abundance of sunshine; off with the mountain kings and on with the race kings :0)

We arrived on Saturday afternoon which gave me time to test ride the course. In previous years Catton Park has become fondly renowned for turning into a 'mud fest' with the onset of rain, so in order to keep wheels moving Pat Adams and co. have been busy all-weather proofing some of the more affected part of the course, such as bluebell woods. The result of which is some fast, fun singletrack.....

Bluebell woods
True to the weatherman's word we woke up to a clear blue sky. At the race site everyone was happy, including riders and pit helpers. Enduro 6 is made all the more interesting by the fact that it is a parc fermé. In other words, riders must ensure that everything they will need during the race is in the pit area before the start. This includes: food; drinks; tools; tyres; spare bike; and for most solo riders, a helper. In my case this latter item consisted of Dave - my trusty feeder, waterer and mechanic etc. etc. Unfortunately for the helpers the pit area is not sheltered so if it did rain they would have been wet because once in the pit area nothing, including the helpers can leave. Given that all of the riders and helpers were stuck in the pits the staff at Quaver Catering had several hours of respite before 700+ hungry riders and helpers descended on their food tent!

The race started at 10am and in traditional style it began with riders lining up ready for the le mans start - a mile or so run around the main site area before grabbing bikes and battling it out for a good start into the singletrack which comprised a of a couple of short, steep sections. I was eager to get a good run so I placed myself in the middle of the second row of runners at the start. I felt overshadowed by all of the other racers around me and I knew that one stumble could leave me strewn on the ground ready to be trampled by the wave of riders in my wake. A few people tripped and fell but I managed to avoid the carnage and emerged into the pits unscathed. I had a good run which enabled me to get ahead of the singletrack 'shuffle' and I could see Matt Page (Wiggle) not too far ahead so I knew that I had set myself up well. All I had to do now was follow my race plan: ride hard for 6 hours and drink, drink, drink.

The course looped back past the pits
It was a hot day so I was very aware that I had to drink lots. I have been known in the past to get my hydration totally wrong which ultimately led to me spending a fews hours on a drip in hospital. In fact, that little incident occurred on this very race course so the need to drink was even more salient to me. Over the course of the race I drank 4.5 litres of Torq energy mixed at 6% . I also added Elete water to my bottles to ensure that I didn't dehydrate and to avoid cramping.

The course was littered with thorns and consequently the track was littered with people repairing punctures. I ran tubed tyres tubeless with Stans sealant and luckily the sealant worked! On lap 3 I heard the heart sinking sound of air leaking out of my tyre but within a few seconds Stans had done it's job and the tyre sealed. Phew! Over the last few weeks Dave has been experimenting with different tyres, tubleless conversion kits, and sealant. As a result, he has become quite an acomplished tyre technician and he advises using DT Swiss tubeless kits with Stans. Well at least that seems to be best with DT Swiss wheels and Conti tubed tyres.

The laps were pretty quick, approximately 27-29minutes, so I found myself calculating how many I'd be doing. It looked like I was in for 12 to 13 laps. I planned to make as few pit stops as possible. Under parc fermé rules it is only possible to take bottles and food from the pits so I carried one 750ml and one 500ml bottle with me. I preempted that this would last me 2 hours which would mean that I would only need two pit stops. However, it was hotter than I expected and in the last 2 hours I drank almost 2 litres meaning that I had to make an extra stop.

I'm loving my new bike

The race was fast and fun, and it was great to test my form. My training has been going really well and I have been feeling strong so I was interested in seeing what I could do. I knew that I was riding well when I was able to catch glimpses of some of the elite male riders, so a chase commenced :0) I worked hard to make sure that I passed as many riders as possible before entering each section of singletrack to avoid any delays. However, there was a really great atmosphere and lots of riders were happy to move to the side to let other riders come through when necessary. I had planned to have an 'easier' last lap making time for a quick toilet trip en route but on hearing Dave's orders, "Ride as fast as you can!" my plan was dispelled! When I heard the times of the elite men on the podium I was glad that I didn't ease up on the last lap....I'd have relinquished a few places in the overall standings ;0)

Great Team Work!

Results were:

Elite Women

1st Sally Bigham - 13 laps in 6:11:21
2nd Mel Alexander - 12 laps in 6:24:56
3rd Helen Jackson - 11 laps in 6:02:23

Elite Men

1st lee Williams - 14 laps in 6:18:51
2nd Sam Humphrey - 13 laps in 6:10:44
3rd Phil Morris - 13 laps in 6:11:58
4th Matt Page - 13 laps in 6:12:28
5th David Hayward - 13 laps in 6:15:20

Full results can be found here.

As always Joolze kept the riders guessing which section of undergrowth she would appear out of on each lap! Her report will be available soon on the British Cycling website.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

What a weekend :0)

The plan for the Easter weekend was to get some long technical training rides in on Friday and Saturday with Mel Alexander, ride the Merida spring marathon on Sunday and finish off with some skills coaching on Monday. We couldn't have asked for more. The weather was absolutely amazing making it feel more like Western Australia than Wales and we had the opportunity to catch up with great friends.

Fun final Descent at the Builth Wells Merida

On Friday Mel showed Dave and I around some of her brilliant local trials. We made our way up and over Machen Mountain, had a quick spin round the XC route at Cwmcarn while Dave had a tea break in the trail centre cafe, and then made our way back to Mel's house. We finished the day off in style by having a BBQ! Saturday started with breakfast on the balcony in the sun before we headed out on another brilliant 5ish hour ride. The trails were a little more challenging and I managed to fall off into a large patch of stinging nettles and later I had a brief encounter with a tree!

Mel in action

The next day we had an early 6am start and Mel's husband Mark drove us all to Builth Wells for the Merida marathon. Once again the sun was shining and we were blessed with a fast, dry fun course. I wasn't sure how my legs would feel after the previous two days riding but despite feeling tired I was pleased to have a strong ride.

A quick word at the finish

I have never ridden a Merida before and I was amazed at how organised it was. In fact, it was so well organised that Dave found himself stuck at one of the feed zones eating a complimentary ham sandwich and crisps while a mechanic fixed his rear rotor that had wiggled itself loose. Well, that's his excuse for finishing the 50km slower than I finished the 68km ;0) It was great to have a chance to catch up with James from Ergon and have the support of the Team area he had set up.

Team Topeak-Ergon Support
On Monday we went to Llantrisant with Kate and Des Betts ( for some of Des's skills coaching. It had been a long weekend and I was having a bit of a 'dizzy' day and found it hard to focus. Des is incredibly patient and has an amazing ability to instill confidence...even in me! There was a small group of us and we all took it in turns to practice each section.
Practicing fast cornering

The Master in action showing how it should be done!

One thing that I want to nail is fast fire road cornering which is something that I will encounter lots of in the stage races that I have planned for later in the year. I gradually took this one faster and faster and eventually I was able to hold a 'death grip' (i.e. no breaks) :0)

Death grip cornering
What a weekend....I can't wait to do it all again!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Long weekend in Wales

I can't wait until Friday.....we are off for a long weekend full of MTB in Wales! Although my weekends are always filled with riding this weekend is an exception because I get to go off road. Wahoo!!!! The vast majority of my riding so far this year has been on the road because it is easier to train in specific heart rate and power zones. This is physiologically better than riding off road which tends to be less consistent, or so my coach Mr Hart tells me but he could be spinning me a yarn :-)

On Friday and Saturday Mel Alexander (Element Racing) will be guiding Dave and me around some of the 'secret singletrack' north of Cardiff. Then on Sunday we will all be riding the first of the series of Merida marathons at Builth Wells ( Unfortunately Mark Spratt, Mel's husband, has taken a leaf out of Dave's book and took a tumble off his bike at the British NPS - he is now nursing a broken scaphoid. Mel sympathetically said it's only 6 weeks or so on the turbo before he'll be back in action ;-)


I have a love-hate relationship with the turbo trainer that lives in our lounge. On the one hand I love it because I can already see the benefit of the training that I do on it, but on the other hand I hate it because of the painful interval sessions that I now associate with it! In the last few weeks I have started zone 6 intervals sessions. Although I have experienced interval training as a runner, until this year I have never done it on the bike. I found the first session so hard that I nearly fell off and the thought of wearing a crash helmet crossed my mind ;0) I then spent the following few days dreading the next zone 6 session. That was until I had to do a zone 5 session which I actually found even harder because the intervals are longer! I am still incorporating long zone 2 and shorter zone 3 endurance rides but my rendezvous with the turbo are becoming more frequent. Dave has started making himself scarce at these times... he said I get grumpy ;0)