I can see the flag

An entry level runner on an entry level bike…


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The Chuffin’Huff

Facebook’s a right bugger, innit? It’s so easy to find things you didn’t know you were looking for, and then share them with your unsuspecting, but suggestible friends. 

“Lookit this!” I messaged JB one evening, back when we were riding the crest of the running wave, having survived the Grizzly. “What a good idea”, she messaged back, followed with “I’ve done us an entry”. 😲

The Clyst Hydon Huff is a local run for us, 10 miles away as the crow flies, so we could just ride there, run and ride home, neatly ticking all the training boxes. It’s only a 10k, sure there are some hills, but we’re Devon lasses and hills are our… “fuckin’hell JB, have you seen the hill profile?”  😯

Hill profile, as reported by #fetcheveryone

“Oh yes”, she carefully replied, via messenger and I suspect she was glad not to have this conversation in real life. 

As the day approached I ramped up my training from zero to 4 miles for the month🤦‍♀️ . Plan B was hatched, which then morphed into Plan C, which involved my car and no bikes. 

A not too early start allowed for a Daddy Bear sized bowl of porridge and a coffee before I collected JB. We’d managed to coordinate Fetch tees and shorts, we never match trainers though for I have the feet of a clown and hers, well… they fill a toe box nicely…😝 

We arrived at the start and it was deserted. This is the start, right? We’d both read the email with the destructions and agreed that yes, the school was where the Race HQ was to be. A check of the email showed that we were wrong to ignore the sign that said Race HQ *this way* and the school wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the email. A quick u-turn and we obediently followed the arrows and parked without further ado. Registered and had a wee and before long it was the briefing and start. 

Garmins ready (and the first outing for my new Forerunner 235 with magic heart measuring powers) and we were off bang on 10am. Uphill. 

We went up, and up, and up. Luckily, it flattened out for about a second, before it went up, again. JB and I made a pact at the start, based loosely on my extensive lack of training, that we’d run what we could and walk the hills. 

155 mtrs in height gained in the first mile and a half at a steady 8-10%. We shuffled a gentle jog – running would be an eexageration – up the hill, actually passing people who were shuffling even more gently that we were or who were walking. No one was more surprised than me when we made the top without walking or stopping. 

A right turn onto a bridleway and JB said “you’ll recognise this, burd”. She says this a lot and it’s hardly ever true, but this time, it was! One of our lesser used bridleways: a puddle, MrJB and I have previous along here – I can now see it as a racing incident, but only just. Anyway, I recognised it *smug face*. 

MrJB getting his elbows out

“It’s really dried out, hasn’t it burd”. “Yes. Why not?” JB replied, and with that we rounded the corner and were shin deep in that ⬆⬆ long puddle before we knew it. Well now, I know there’s a line through that one, thank you very much MrJB… 

 So we ploughed through it, passing Mincing Lady. Down hill now for a mile or so and the bridleway spat us out on to the road with the mirror, where we always take a photo like this. Trad. But we didn’t today cos No Camera. 

As we pottered along at our Not Too Shabby pace that starts with a 10, JB said that we were Parkrun Ready, for we’d run the first 5k without stopping, or even complaining! We knew that after the water station we were due another climb and without saying it out loud we agreed that we’d walk this one. 

It was steeper, a singletrack footpath through the woodsies, littered with bluebells and wild garlic and the sun streaming through the trees. It was really lovely. No – I mean it, it actually was! We dropped Mincing Lady and even caught another couple as we walked up the 120 meters of climbing in the next three-quarters of a mile. As we reached the top, a cheery Marshall said “Next time you see me, it’ll all be downhill!” 

“FFS Marshall, thats what you all say” we replied, cheerfully. 

Still running in the woodsies, we went down a bit, into a boggy bit, and then up a bit, and there she was! “All downhill now” and what’s more, she was bloody right! Leaving the woodsies the final mile was all downhill. 

Into the finish funnel the Man On The Mike announced us with no silly jokes, we scooped up a drink and our (nice green) finishers tshirt, from some well mannered Boy Sprouts. 

I can’t remember what we paid for this one, but it was money well spent. It was brilliantly organised, exceptionally well marshalled, parking was plentiful and the tshirt isn’t bright orange. The atmosphere was spot on, just the right side of ‘party’, tea and cake were plentiful at the finish and the route was gorgeous. 

We finished towards the top of the bottom and were delighted with it! My new magic I know what your heart is doing Garmin said this. And then advised me to take a week off and spend it lying down. 

So I had some cheese and some toast and we went out to spend our recovery on our bikes in the afternoon sunshine 

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Trying something new

Following some Go-Anywhere-Biking with some randoms on Saturday, Sunday morning at 8am saw JB and I driving away from home, south, to catch a bus to take us north.

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As the bus passed our houses on it’s way north we commented what a lovely day it was, and that instead of sitting on a bus going to Welsh Wales, we should really be riding out here for some general twattery in the late autumn sunshine.

thebeacon

We were on a coach with a gang; wait, no, it wasn’t a gang – there was definitely one of every kind; of cyclists from Mid Devon Cycling Club and we were going to The Velodrome (y’know, the one where That Geraint Thomas lives).

After a 3 hour coach trip that takes half that time in the car, we arrived. So did my nerves.

I’d been making jokes all week about needing to work from A&E on Monday due to Broken Bones, now it didn’t seem quite so funny. MDCC had laid on the whole experience for £20, to include 4 hours coaching, the track to ourselves and bike hire. While they sorted the logistics we went track side to gawp. “Fuck me sideways, that’s fucking steep burd”, I told JB. She looked at me like: well duuuh, yeah, but… I continued “It’s so Fucking Steep burd”. And it was. 42 degrees steep as Coach Brian later informed us.

We stripped to our cycling kit, got divided into groups – Been Before Group and Not Been Before group – and went and got our hire bikes. There weren’t enough to have one each so we hadta buddy with someone in another group. I got buddied with a lady slightly taller than me who insisted we wanted a 56″ frame. Not on your nelly said I, we need a 53″. “Not on my nelly”, said the bike hire man and we compromised on a 54″. He was right.

Everyone was trying out their bikes in the central area. Not me. No fuckin way. That thing’s got no brakes or gears and you can’t free wheel! I’m not getting on that, not on your life! I sat and watched as one by one people got brave and had a little go. There were no disasters. I went and stood by our bike. There. That was enough brave for now. ;-)

Eventually I decided that there was nothing for it. So I adjusted the saddle. And went and sat back down :-0:-0 Phew. Still nothing bad.

The Been Before Group were all on track now receiving instruction from their Comedy Coach. This was JB’s group – she’s been before and knew what she was doing. I watched her do a few laps, thinking shit, that looks exciting. Before I knew it she was way up towards the top of that bloody thing and zooming round like she was born for it!. Well, double shit. I want a go at that, but I can’t unless I get on the Fixed Wheel Motherfucker.

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Sure no one was looking, I dragged the FWM to the railing and blundered my way on board. Going nowhere near the shoe cages I managed a tentative few laps of the central area and, more crucially, managed to stop again on the railing.

When it was our group’s go Coach Brian had us lined up along the inside of the outside of the track, clinging to the railing for dear life. He ruthlessly tightened our toe-clips so we were One with our Fixies of Doom.

He explained the nuances of the track, “this area here is the Cote D’Azure” – that’s reassuring, I’ve been there, it’s quite nice – “this is the bank – just think of it as a hill” hahahahahahahaha – yeah, ok. Coach explained that the bank angle is the same at the bottom as it is at the top: 42 degrees, so basically if you can ride on the bit at the bottom you can ride the bit at the top. With that, we were sent on our way!

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We tottered around the flat bit first for a couple of laps. (Bollox – I forgot to start my Garmin, and I can’t count laps – I can’t even count lengths when I swim – and that only ever goes up to 8). The Coach made us stop – you do this by riding at the railing as slowly as you dare and sliding you hand along until you come to a gradual stop. Get me – I’m an expert now ;-)

Off we went again this time onto the very gently banked Cote D’Azure. A couple more laps then stop. What the actual – this is FUN!

Coach said he’d have us riding up past the blue line in 20 minutes. 5 minutes to go Coach…

He sent us off again, onto the banking this time. His only advice was push a bit harder into the banking as if you’re riding up a hill; so I did. Over the black line and up to the red… Over the red line and up to the blue one! Then over the blue line and up to the top… Fuck sake Megster, don’t look down. Won’t do that again!

It felt amazing – you can only hear the boards creaking, your heart racing, and the noise of the bike and the wind rushing past! Round and round! Anyone who thinks this is boring has never tried it! What a buzz.

Get baulked a couple of times by a slower club rider – now, that’s a quick learning curve! Out on the road you’d just free wheel to scrub speed but no such luxury on the fixie – Coach yelled “go higher to loose speed” and past I went!

All too soon the first session was finished, cruised into the railing and wrestled free of the cages. Walking to hand over my Gallant Fixie to Slightly Taller Lady my legs were like jelly! It’s full bore racing, my eyes were dry from not blinking and my mouth was dry from panting!

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We had two more sessions, one focused on riding in a line and then pulling off the front of the group to allow them to pass beneath you – that’s a weird sensation, and another where you have to pull away from the group and race around to catch the back of the pack. That’s hard. You’re in the red for lap after lap! JB said she was spanked after that session, I totally know what she meant!

It was a long day and the next time we go (and there will be a next time) we’ll drive ourselves, but it was so worth it. We’ve worked out that we must only have ridden around 12/13 miles but my quads are well aware of it today and my general tired level is right up there!

But I’m not typing this from A&E, and on another tab in Google, I don’t have the Planet X Website open on the Track Bike Page ;-)

Well… N+1 innit…


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Exeter to Lands End, for chariddy

“I’ve done this before” JB said; “with Mr & Mrs A – it’s tough, but survivable, and it’ll be good training for The Thing in the Summer”.  Not really giving it much more than cursory consideration, I agreed.

The Exeter to Lands End Challenge is organised by OfficerM the Rozzer to raise money for a selected charity – this year it was to raise money for bowel cancer (shamless plug – see link at the bottom of this), and comprises 132 miles of main roads and lanes, beginning in Exeter and ending in Lands End. There are 4 stops along the way at Rozzer shops in Okehampton, Launceston, Wadebridge and Camborne.

JB and I have been doing some pretty solid training, by our standards, with 600+ mile months and regular 100+ weekends and so were fairly confident that we would survive the E>LE, and even more confident that it was likely to be ugly.

With an end to end, as we discovered on our Coast to Coast the other week, getting from one end and back again has it’s own logistical problems to be overcome. Getting to Exeter was solved quickly with MrJB volunteering his services, understandably, neither he or MrMegster were keen on getting us back from LE, especially in Bank Holiday weekend traffic. So to Plan B… more on that later.

Over the approaching months we had gathered a small team together, riding 130 miles in a group of two didn’t appeal as much as the option to share the load with Others. MrL was first to sign up, then MrsB soon followed. MrsL however had other plans for the BH weekend and MrL stepped out. Then MrsB, for Reasons, made the decision not to ride, leaving us with a team of 2. OfficerM wasn’t sure that we should ride as a pair and gently suggested that we throw our lot in with a group of 8 social riders, who welcomed us with open arms. We were also gently encouraged to leave at 6am, rather than 7am like The Proper Riders ;-). We readily agreed to this too, quieter roads, cooler conditions… etc.

JB had a confidence giving conversation with Mr Ripley, our group leader, on the Saturday before we left, he was firm that they were social riders at social pace, no more than 10 mph, plenty of chocolate stops and no pressure to lead from the front. JB and I were both delighted that we were going to get the opportunity to shelter in a group and would be more than happy to take a turn on the front.

Anyhoo. Yesterday, at 6ofuckenclock we found ourselves, bleary eyed at Exeter Police Station being introduced to our group and sent on our way. Led out by Mr Rilpey, Garmins on with the route pre-loaded (this event isn’t signed, you hafta self navigate with a map or GPX) we headed across Exeter and out and up towards Tedburn St Mary and beyond to Okehampton where the first stop was.

JB and I interveened early on to make sure we didn’t get lost in Exeter and found ourselves in the front of the group as it split going up Dunsford Hill and out of Exeter. Happy to be keeping up and not disgracing ourselves, we rode on and it started to drizzle. Then it started to rain. Which wasn’t forecast. No matter, we had coats and gilets which we quickly put on. The Others in the group stopped to turn on lights and sort coats too. We were only about 10 or 15 miles in by now and already I was starting to have doubts that we were in the right group. JB and I rode on steadily, and the next time we looked back they were nowhere in sight.

“We’ll regroup at Okehampton” we agreed. A while later, we decided that we wouldn’t regroup, and that we needed to keep moving if we wanted to get to Lands End in the same day. We made it to Okehampton in around about 2 and a half hours, almost exactly as we expected. The Rozzer was nice there and he gave us a cereal bar and showed us where the loo was :-). We finished our bars and bananananananas just as our group pulled into the stop. MrRipley was looking a leetle bit frustrated and we knew then that we were making the right decision to bail and strike out on our own. We weren’t benefiting the group any more than they were us, so it was really a no brainer. MrRipley was understanding and I suspect a little jealous… :-O

The next section, to Launceston was lovely. Quiet roads, the rain stopped, although there was a decent mist, and there were a couple of meaty ascents but nothing we couldn’t handle, they were more than paid back with long sweeping descents and in what seemed like no time we were in Launceston. We were using our Garmins to navigate and so weren’t watching the miles. I had a sneaky peek on the way to Launceston and asked JB if she wanted to know the numbers:

“YES” she said.

“38 miles” I told her.

“Fuck off” she said.

“I know” I said.

We both though we were going to be in the high 20s or low 30s, and this just made us sure that we’d made the right decision to leave the group and make our own way. When we left Launceston Food stop, manned by a great team with egg sarnies and all sorts of other Nice Things, there was no sign at all of the group and apart from a solitary chap, we were the first to Launceston.

The next stretch to Wadebridge was fairly innocuous but one of the longer stretches at nearly 30 miles. When we made it into the stop here there were more tables laiden with sarnies and cakes and energy drinks and all the stuff you needed. Once I was escorted out of the Police station (I got lost in there when I went to the loo, honest I did Officer :-O) we were on our way…

We’d been warned about the hill out of Wadebridge and ‘cafe-legs’… It wasn’t pretty…

Now we just had to follow the Atlantic Highway all the way to Camborne. I know this road. It’s not too bad – sure it undulates a bit but there are no Big Hills like what we have in Devon.

20 minutes later and I’m ready to call it a day :-O. WTF. JB had to run point the whole way to Chiverton Cross Roundabout, me I grumbled, grouched, moaned and nearly, nearly cried.

When we left Wadebridge, we’d been in the saddle for about 6 hours and covered just over half the distance at 73 miles. I was feeling good, relatively. 5 miles along the Atlantic Highway and I was beat. I had nothing left, I couldn’t keep in JB’s wheel on the flat and she dropped me like a stone on any climb, and then patiently waited for me to catch up before dropping me again. It wasn’t just the hills, this road is quite open and there was a gusty wind, but the traffic was icing on the cake for me. Bank Holiday Sunday going past Newquay, Perranporth and beyond there was just car after car after car, and virtually none of them passed safely. It was really scary and after a few miles began to really stress me out, and poor JB was having to keep waiting for me, feeding me jellied fruits – it all felt really unsafe, particularly on legs that were refusing to help. There was no suggestion of stopping but it began to look like the last 50+ miles were going to be hellish, for us both, especially if JB was gonna hafta tow me the whole way to LE.

Finally, we made it to Chiverton Roundabout – it’s a dangerous place – we shut our eyes and gunned it to our exit and finally a sign for Cam-fucken-borne and the final stop. I bravely ;-) took a turn on the front, until there was a rise in the road and JB hadta take charge again. Redruth came and went… then Pool…

“Where the fuck is Cam-fucken-borne?” JB asked.

Some Fucker has moved it, that’s what’s happened. It’s the only answer…

Eventually we pulled in. Some of The Proper Riders were slumped in camping chairs mainlining jelly babies and energy drinks but they mustered a cheer for us! I dropped my bike where I stopped (mech side up) and lay face down on the grass. I hafta say, it was The Best Lie Down I’ve ever had.

“Be a dear” I muttered to one of The Proper Riders… “fetch me my coke from my bar-bag over there”; *waves vaguely. And to his credit he did.

Cheesey rolls, can’o’coke, jelly babies and a lie down. Quick wee, and we were on our way again. I felt a million times better, still fucked but only as much as I expected to be, not like on the last section where I had nuffink. As we rode out of the last stop it struck us that apart from the 4 lasses that were in our original group and no-where to be seen, we were the only burds riding, out of 60+ entrants.

From family holidays, I know the last bit of the route. Over to and through Hayle, across another scary roundabout, catch the A30 up and over till we see St Michael’s mount and down into Menzpants. Sorry, Penzance. I was able to take my turn on the front, and happy to do so, keen to give poor JB a break from towing me for the last 30 miles :-O. We were by no means outta the woods but I had no doubts now that we would finish. We poured into Menzpants along the A30…

the roads finally a bit quieter. Along the bottom of the town, pausing at the Jubilee pool for a swi-… hahahaha, NOT. Pausing to phone mum to mobilise Dad and to get the kettle on, for they live in Menzpants and had become Plan B. Onwards.

JB had been warning me about the last 9 miles and how hilly it was. Pah. I know this road like the back of my hand – sure it rises a bit… Hmmmm. Ok, so there’s *this* hill at Drift… wait, this isn’t Drift. Ok so there’s *another* hill at Drift, then it’s cruisey… :-O. Somehow we pulled 17mph along the last bit between Menzpants and Sennen, where Dad cruised by giving us ‘bloody cyclists’ a good’n’wide pass (bloody Volvo drivers ;-)) and we rolled in Lands End; where it almost went wrong. JB put her hand out for a high five, which I misinterpreted as a ‘turn left gesture’ and shot off the wrong way Raspberry!!

Finally got it together for the high five and rolled in to the finish. 132.5 miles in 11hrs, 49 minutes (or 10 hours 29 minutes if you take out the stops), 8140 feet of climbing and an average speed of 12.5mph. Which, I hafta say, is extrordinary – we struggle to average that on our training rides.

Dad took us home, mum had produced a welcome feast, shower, beds.

Then Part deux of Plan B. The Train – cos it went so well the last time…

Well, it did go well, just. We had to leggit down the platform to make our connection – for a moment thought we may hafta ride home from Exeter (25 miles) :-O – to the extent that we planned our ice-cream stops while we watched the minutes tick towards the time our connecting train was due to depart!

Then it was just a plod (we were way past pottering by then) home along our little towpath, stopping for an ice-cream in the usual spot.

It felt like a monstorous thing, and I always say ‘Never again’.. This time I mean it. Not because of the distance or the suffering, but because there was no medal or t-shirt! ;-)

*crosses fingers that the OfficerM doesn’t read this and add medals and t-shirts to the list for next time…

Link (roll over me to see where I go)


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Coasting #daatc2c

Along with V’rap, eL Bee! and Cath, JB and I missed the memo about 13th May maybe not being the best day for riding a bike.

This year for the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Coast2Coast ride JB and I decided to be independent and not demand that MrJB and MrM and TheBoy (TB) drop us off and pick us up. Well, we demanded that MrM and TB dropped us off but we hatched an elaborate plan to get home called: The Train. We’d get some extra training miles after the event and ride to the station which is about 15 miles away. This is Devon, so it wasn’t gonna be that straight forward. We hafta get the train to Exeter, straight past our houses, then back the way we came to Tivvy Parkway station, which is actually 7ish miles away from Tivvy itself. More extra miles…

A phone call last week to book the bikes on the train should have been all the warning we needed: we could book them on from Exeter to Tivvy, but not from Axminster to Exeter. However, the nice man on the phone said (and I’m sure I heard him wink as he did) “Guards discretion me dear, give ‘im one of your best smiles and he might let you on”. All week we’ve been practicing our best smiles Raspberry!

So anyway. Regular readers will be expecting rain, mud, wind or snow – or indeed at least a drama. Here’s how it went, prepare for disappointment!

The sun shone all day, and there was a breeze but certainly no wind, and although the shady spots were chilly, we were both quite happy in a short-sleeved jersey and shorts. Our matching jerseys seemed popular, lots of people commented ‘nice jerseys ladies’. One particular group cat and moused is the whole way, they stopped after every ‘up’ for drinks and chats and who knows what, we just kept plodding forwards and then they’d swoop past until the next hill! They bantered with us: “that’s the 5th time we’ve overtaken you ladies”… JB said “we’re being mistaken for ladies again”. Sure enough the next time the penny seemed to have dropped and we’d been relegated to “girls”! I’ll take that.

We’d been (not very) quietly dreading the big hill – remembering it from last year – we had each turned it into a monster of a thing in our heads, and after the stop st Ilminster we knew it wasn’t far away.

JB said “I’ll bet it’s not one of those times where you get to the top and say ‘that wasn’t so bad’”. When we ground towards the top, passing the odd person pushing their bike, and to the tight steep bend, I thought “I’m sure this bit is near the top” and “fuck me burd” we each said “who knew: that wasn’t so bad!”

A bit of mutual back slapping and laughing about being beaten up by our own brains and then “oh”. A near vertical ramp. I’d totally forgotten that one. No matter – we slogged up it too. Well, we had a train to catch;-)

I shan’t bore you with all the rest of it. We made it to West Bay – a.k.a. Broadchurch where we collected our medals and goodie bags, got the by-the-sea photo and went to get some food before the ride out to the station.

 

There. See? No drama. We necked a drink and some chippies and toasted sarnie, and I took JB on a quick tour of the Bay. “See over there? That’s where Blind-As-A-Bat-Barry fell in the harbour” I told her… true story.

Then we hadta leave, because Train.

We were following our Garmins pre-programmed route. They are brilliant except when you’re trying to get out a town. We were eventually spat out at the bottom of Bridport and headed back the way we came for a couple of miles until the turn off. Nice back lanes, the suns out, we’ve loads of time, even at the speed we travel. What could go wrong?

“Why won’t my bike work?” I asked JB. It felt like the chain had come off, but it hadn’t. “Click your gears” she said… I could tell by her face that she knew it was terminal: “Your free-hubs gone” she announced.

My what’s gone? Where’s it gone?

We knew then that we weren’t gonna make the train. And we weren’t gonna save MrJB or MrM and TB from fetching and carrying us after all. A quick phone call and MrM and TB were in their way. We coasted, actually, I coasted – JB, one hand on my back shoved me up all but the steepest of hills back to the main road where we made it to ‘Olland from School’s farm and the rendezvous point.

MrM and TB arrived about an hour later, we loaded up, did some grovelling and moaning and were on our way home, hours earlier than we should have been if we’d managed to make Plan A stick.

When I unloaded the bike at home i discovered she has a puncture as well!

It wouldn’t have felt right if the whole day had gone to plan and despite the ending, it was a great day and a lovely route through some of Dorset and Somerset’s finest countryside, and I do like the line across the counties on the Strava map :-)

I have now made sure that May 13th 2019 is designated a ‘run day’, it’s obviously no kinda date to be out on a bike!


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Something as mundane as a training run

I wouldn’t normally blog about something as mundane as a training run but last night’s was a bit *different*.

JB will no doubt comment that I shouldn’t make such a fuss and that I need to Get Over It, or something like, but rightly or wrongly, it’s made me smile all day.

“We’ll go up Newts in the field and then down Manley” JB said, “meet at WA at 4:45”. Nothing unusual in that at all, we’ve done this route in reverse and I was feeling quite smug as I dug out my trail trainers, having forgotten them the last time. It should perhaps be noted that I don’t balance well, and am not at all surefooted.

So, garmin set, we rendezvoused at WA (not Western Australia – it’s not that kinda run…). “Oh fuck” I said, “I’ve forgotten my torch”. JB said “no matter, I’ve got mine” and with that we were off.

We are still Run-walk-running and it’s fair to say that our ‘marathon fitness’ has fucked right-off, but we are up to 4 minutes run now, and have even, on occassion, run a whole mile without stopping.

Anyhoo – I digress. There was a boring bit where we trotted about half a mile to the field gateway and into the field.

We both agreed that the field was a turned ankle waiting to happen with only one torch and that anyone with half a brain would walk, so we did. Nothing to do with the slippy, wet, near 20% nature of Newts Hill at all. It’s granny gear on a bike, no need to change the approach for running.

With the single torch we had to walk carefully although somehow we were both wider than we realised judging by the number of times we bumped into one-another. Over the ditch: JB first, me stranded unable to see a single thing… Bird… Torch shone my way and over the ditch and up the field, which was only half way up trainers muddy. The exit to the field is through a gap in the hedge – before ya say anything – it’s a footpath, just not exactly well loved. We squeezed through, grabbing hawthorn bushes for balance and popped out onto the lane. Now some structured RWR, along the lane and… wait – the torch has gone again and I’m being dragged right. Now, I’m shocking at left and right but I know there isn’t a right turning there, it’s someone’s house.

So we went into the house, well the garden, well through the gate in their garden; and lo: there’s a bloody track, and who knew? It went UP. My super-grippy-trail-trainers performed a couple of cracking wheel spins, almost putting me on my face before we were 10 yards up, JB pointed out all the exciting things with her torch, we hadta have a little conversation about not always pointing the torch the way she was looking. We slogged up the hill, agreeing again that running was Dangerous, for about an hour… well probably about 15 minutes, it was very steep.

When we reached the field at the top, we decided that it was time for a photo, Not A Rest. Tivvy looked really quite pretty in the distance:

We climbed a bit further sticking to the tree-lined edge of the field – this makes sense, we laughed – out in the pitch black, in a field, in a storm – did I mention it was raining and blowing a gale? – under a line of trees. Still we made it through the field with no injuries and nothing at all fell on us.

JB said “I think we went this way, when I did the Russel”; “who the heck is Russel?” I asked. Turns out it’s a run from before my [running] time that doesn’t happen anymore – I could see why. Not being of Sound Sense of Direction, I followed JB into the next field and we began to mince our way through the cow shit and mud, which was by this time, close to being over the shoe deep.

“You never see cows in this field” said JB . Which we both laughed about, what with all the cow shit we were now covered in. We were making slow but steady progress, only occasionally bouncing off each other in the pitch dark. I love being out in the dark, but I had an uneasy feeling that something was Out There watching us. We rounded the corned of the field and the gate was in sight. JB shone her torch out into the field and Fuck Me!

A fucking bull was standing 10 feet away watching our every move. Along with his bitches – a whole bloody herd of them. Our every move got quicker, matching my heart rate! JB was muttering “nice cow, good cow” and they seemed to like it.

Then the mud got deep. Knee deep. And it wasn’t just mud. It threatened to take our shoes, we linked arms and lurched through it as fast as we dared, JB still muttering “nice cow, good cow” till we got to the gate, which was open! WFT? Now where? Wire, under the wire – that’ll protect us from the elephant sized Limousin bull giving us the eye. We relaxed a bit, and I suspect the bull and his ladies did too. I’m sure it’s given him something to take to the pub to tell his mates about… “you’ll never believe the pair of clowns in the field tonight…” etc.

The remaining run reverted to type, after we minced our way through the cabbage field we had found ourselves in, we went down a short bridleway – even managing to run a bit and were spat out on to the road, another little trot down the hill and we were at the safety of Manley bridge and our old friend the canal. We RWR all the way back to WA and the relative safety of our respective homes.

There was the usual and humiliating strip in the back garden and the BBROS (bare bum run of shame) through the house and into the shower.

My biggest mistake? Putting my trainers on the radiator to dry. I really shoulda washed them first. I’m sure the smell of warm cow shit will fade in time, and besides it’s given the cats something to be really interested in!

4.5 miles in an hour and 9 minutes. It felt like we’d been gone longer.


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The Loch Ness Marathon

Just under a year ago, I sent JB an email, kinda idly asking if she’d ever done a marathon. We hadn’t know each other long at that point, and so when she replied along the lines of ‘noooooo… why?’ that teeny glimmer of interest is where it all went wrong.

Instead of moving along nicely to something mundane and pain free, before we knew it we’d entered the 2017 Loch Ness Marathon, booked hotels and googled training schedules involving minimum effort.

It should be said that, at this time, we’d just begun to ramp up our running which had, let’s say, tapered off… We were up to around 8 miles, managing to get some of them in the 9:xxs and even Doing Hills. We were optimistic of not only finishing the Ness, but finishing it well. We had almost a whole year and planned to build up the miles gently over the winter and then we had the summer to work on pace and whatnot.

There’s a whole other blog about what happened next, that’s JB’s tale to tell, suffice to say; we discussed pulling out/deferring or whateves, but in the end, decided that what will be will be, and if we had to walk the Ness, we’d walk the Ness – shit happens, right? Weirdly this new set of circumstances took away any pressure I was feeling: now the only goal was to complete the Ness, any need I’d felt to Do A Time had vanished.

In early April I accidentally gate-crashed JB’s experimental maiden voyage and trial walk/run on her newly re-built knee. I’d pretty much quit running over the winter out of sympathy- or indeed laziness… but mainly because I’d lost my newly found running buddy. We’d decided that our target was Ness, and we were going through it together, and so if JB was starting at ground zero, I saw no harm in having the winter off and doing the same, albeit without the repairing leg… :-O

I know, this is supposed to be a race report… but this year has been as much about the buildup as it has the race… bear with… ;-)

Anyhoo, long story made less long… JB learned how to make the Garmin beep intervals and over the following months we added time to the intervals and distance to the miles. We ran/walk/ran (RWR) up and down the Great Western Canal until it was sick of the sight of us. We made friends with the hipster that lives in the woods and can only be seen digitally, we found frogs, newts, herons, kingfishers, eagles, baby ponies and coos, we saw faces where there weren’t faces and faces where there were. We saw the real Graham a couple of times and fake Graham more.

Then suddenly, one day in early summer, the baby swans and ducklings and moorhens on the canal were all grown up and this meant that it was Long Run time and thus, we found ourselves RWRing for 18 miles. Our training target was 15 miles, we didn’t think either of us had many long runs in us and so to do 18 felt like a win. We had the time to fit a second long’un in, and recover in time, and so this time we invited Annie along. Annie is in her 70s and knows Running. Still competing in 100 mile ultras she’s beginning to struggle with her knees and wondered how the RWR strategy would suit her. She was convinced by its merits and she was the breath of fresh air our last long run needed, she told us we were wonderful and we’d be fine, and how well we’d done, and I think we even almost believed her!

Are you still here?

Cut to Friday, and MrJB, along for support, driving and MTBing (still not sure why our bikes didn’t make it into the car) collected me and drove us 8 hrs in the car to Carlisle where we fish & chip’d and overnighted in a Travel Lodge. Saturday was 5 more hours in the car to Inverness where we registered, pasta partied and slept.

Then Sunday:

*open eyes to find myself at start of Loch Ness Fuckin Marathon, with JB, wearing Simon’s Cat matching tees and bin bags, being as cold as the actual fucking moon, sheltering behind a van next to a Polish bloke wearing rubber gloves.

*pinches arm.

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Too late to back out now, apparently. JB and I mutter crap to each other about how well prepared we are compared to the other ridiculous stuff we rock up to do… We pace up and down looking for the 6+hours sign to stand by and while we’re looking we find the back of the pack and decide that it’s about where we need to be. We were both very aware that our RWR could see us getting in the way!

Then the pipers piped and we were Marathon runners!!! Ffs. Us – who always bite off more than we can chew, had gone and started a bloody marathon.

6 minutes later we crossed the start line.

We knew it was a down hill start but had determined from the start to stick to our 2 minute run; 1 minute walk plan as much as possible despite the temptation to press on down the hill. Much of our training had been on the flat canal path and any up or down was likely to have an impact, and so, much like Pavlov’s dog, when the garmin beeped we tucked to the side of the road and walked. To my surprise others were walking too! It seems RWR doesn’t just work for us! When the beeps went we were off again, and so it continued. Slowly we warmed up and as we dropped down the hill towards the loch side the temperature rose. There were a couple of occasions where we decided to run through our walk on good downhills and then we walked through our runs on the up-the-other-sides. I was amazed when I looked at my watch at the 5 mile point – were well up on anything we’d done in training and even more up if you take off JB’s 3 or so minute loo queue! It didn’t feel like we were working *that* hard but I was aware that we might pay for the pace later. We also spotted fellow Fetchie Corrah here and we cat and moused for a while.

By mile 10 we were significantly ahead of anything we had done in training, despite the undulations. With the half marathon split in sight I was feeling stiffish, but mentally ok. JB however had started to go quiet and I suspected (and she later confirmed) she wasn’t having such a nice time. “What’s hurting, bird?” I asked. “Let’s not fucking go there” came the reply and the door swung firmly shut. We knew either one of us was likely at some point to find ourselves in Dark Place, and with no other option but to keep going that’s what we did.

Just after the half way point I hadta pee! At the next water station there was a porta-loo and I joined the queue. JB moved about in small circles while she waited – beginning to leave the Dark Place as we bantered with the other Loo Queuers. It’s always reassuring to know that others are suffering too!

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When we left the water stop we’d had a gel each and I was still feeling ok, although my hip was hurty, not unusual but annoying and a bit sooner than expected. I said as much to JB and she said hers was too. We decided that it was probably down to the camber of the road, having completed much of our training on pan-flat canal paths the slight camber on the roads, we decided, was definitely to blame! JB was beginning to perk up and I was full of the joys of my 3rd quickest ever half-marathon time and so we trotted off into the second half of our marathon.

I had in the back of my mind that there was A Hill at mile 20. Everyone said how big it was. And mile 20 – who the fuck puts a hill there in a marathon. As they tend to do, hills get bigger when they get into my head and this one was no exception! The miles started to tick past more and more slowly, although Strava says this wasn’t actually the case. We were still sticking to the RWR plan and I think things would have unravelled, for me at least, without it – we responded to the watch peeps as if on autopilot but my legs were getting more and more tired and my hip was really sore. There were no thoughts of stopping but the walk breaks seemed to be going past really quickly and the run ones were going on For Ever.

We had already decided that we would walk The Hill and when eventually it appeared we discussed changing strategy as we power walked up the thing.

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As we walked we were still overtaking people running which shouldn’t have been as heartening as it was…:-O We decided that self-preservation and completion should win over Setting A Time and switched the intervals around so that the walk was the long part of the shenanigans and determined that, if we needed to, we would change it again. Before we knew it we were over the hill (in SO many ways) and actually, by Devon standards, it wasn’t even a REAL hill… past the 7 miles to Inverness sign, and downhill (hahaha) to the finish. The RWR was still working well for us, and although we were hurting, we ran on all the beeps and were overtaking people who looked beat. The last few miles; only 2 and a bit parkruns to go – I never want to go to another parkrun again – were fairly dull scenery wise but we seemed in good spirits again, able to laugh at how sore we were and how much we’d be able to sell our trainers for: well, we were never going to run again so why keep them? JB disappeared into a pile of leaves at one point trying to take a picture which was way funnier than it really ought to have been but by this time it was the little things that kept us ticking over to the end.

When we finally made it to Inverness, we called a BIG walk. With a mile to go, we REALLY wanted to run across the line so we said we’d walk till we could see it and then run, ignoring the beeps for the first time!
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Chip time: 5:40:20 (a PB)
Moving time on Strava and the one I am telling people: 5:26:35. Well, if it wasn’t for *that* loo queue…

From where we were at the start of the year, we anticipated a 6h plus finish time, and only half joked from the start that we would need head torches, I think we’re allowing ourselves to be bloody pleased with ourselves.

The marathon itself couldn’t have been better. The organisation was incredible, from the pasta party and registration on the Saturday to the food stops and drink stops and bus transportation and toilet stops and supporters and roving marshals and gorgeous t-shirts and medals and so on. We’ve both said that we’re not marathon runners and that we’ll never do one again, but JB often says “never is a long time” and I’m not 100% sure we’ll make that stick. If I hadta, I’d go again…


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Moor2Sea

Second go at the Moor2Sea, and after a full year of riding, knocking off a couple of centuries and some fairly serious training for The Running Thing, I was feeling quite confident about it. I knew what was coming in terms of climbing and was determined not to walk any of it.
We decided to ride M2S as it’s part of a ‘triple’, and having ticked off the Taunton Flyer (Somerset) – part 1;planning to do the Lands End 100 (Cornwall) – part 3; it seemed rude not to tick off the Devon event – part 2. Plus, the medals are usually really nice…

Last year, I sat in JB’s wheel the whole way and she towed me along to a Gold Standard result in a time of 2h 44m and a bit. This year, I was determined to redress the balance and take my turn on the front.

JB collected me just after 7am, and we made our way to Exeter Racecourse in good time. We made good time because we were frightened that the police *might* be looking for us. But that’s another story.

Spent some time at the start line gossiping to MrIM – someone JB knows from The Club and doing The TTs, he was charming and called us ladies 😳.  We also bumped (not literally) into MrP and some poor unwitting chap he’d persuaded to take part, he’d brought his MTB… JB commented that at least his gearing would help with *that* part of the ride but we decided that we wouldn’t want to be on his bike for all the tea in China. 

There’s a lovely start to the M2S – we’d opted for the shortest possible option, the Inspire at 37 miles. We both struggled to call it that, knowing that it was really the Children and Old Folk route 😉

The start sees you go from 800 feet to sea level in the first 10 miles, and our average speed showed 17+mph, record breaking by our standards – so unheard of I worried my Garmin was gonna cut out, thinking I’d left it on in the car again. This, obviously, is my favourite part of the ride, minimum effort along quiet Devon lanes and hardly any traffic. As we left the start we were joined by Chris, a chap we vaguely knew from JB’s social rides. Last time I’d seen him my rear tyre (not a euphemism) exploded in his face, so he made good and sure to stay ahead, all the way to the end. He looked to be prepared to ride at Our Pace, but I said to JB that he’d drop us without even trying on the first hill, and he did!

The middle section of the route takes you from Dawlish Warren, along the coast road to Kingsteignton (near Newton Armpit). I really don’t like this bit, it’s main road, through traffic, in and out and through the towns along the way, running traffic light gauntlets, and climbs that although not particularly steep or long, just keep coming. JB hates traffic even more than me and scampered off into the distance determined to get the section over with asap 😳.  I was holding her back (not on purpose…), my legs for some reason not as scared as I needed them to be. She was everso noble and waited for me (and even had time for a photo).  Then, finally we dropped into Kingsteignton where we literally went around the houses. 


The feed station was in Kingsteignton, but we had grub on board and so pressed on (nothing to do with being determined to get Gold Standard and needing every available minute to get it).

I crunched my way through some flapjack and JB had a biccie and I felt a bit better. The final section wove along valley road and back to the hill we had to climb. The hill was getting bigger and bigger in my mind as my legs got less and less willing. I was able to take a *bit* of a turn on the front as we went along the valley. Eventually we took the sharp right-hander up towards Doddiscombsleigh and the beginning of the ascent to the finish. I knew there was no way on hells earth that I’d keep with JB up here, so we agreed to regroup at the finish and off she went. Just as we got started, Chris cruised up to us with some other chap he’d picked up along the way. Mr Someotherbloke commented on our flag jerseys and called us ladies. That made it twice in the same day someone had made that mistake. Chris had chosen to have a nice leisurely stop at the feed station and this had allowed us to canter off in front, briefly. He told us all about the spoils available at the stop, and then off he went again. At the end, we spied him lying on the physio table, and derived more satisfaction than is necessarily sporting from that…

Last year I walked a portion of this hill, and this year I was determined not to. Despite it being The Biggest Hill. And actually, it wasn’t as bad as I’d remembered 🙄. It’s bad, don’t get me wrong, but if I could choose between riding up (and I *did* ride all-the-way-up) the hill again, or running the gauntlet along the coast road, I’d go up the hill again. Gaining 650 feet over 3 miles at gradients of up to 15% it just ground on and on. Passed MrIM walking up… “go megster” he said; I said “uuuurghfffff” and took the next two or three minutes to overtake him 😳.

Tight, steep hairpin, short flat bit, one more climb and the top. TF for that, mile or so to the finish – head down and push. My secret ambition for a 2:30 finish were long gone, my readjusted to hopes for a sub 2:40 finish: also gone, my readjusted again hopes for a ‘gotta-beat-last-year’ target looking just about doable. Best effort at a smile for the photographer and into the finish. 

Finished in 2h, 40m and 24seconds, more than a bit pissed off. I’d high hopes for big improvements and didn’t see them. Still, we managed the Gold Standard, and as hoped, the medals are really nice…


Having had time to reflect and look at the official results, I don’t feel quite so bad. Managed 12th lady back and 5th in age category. JB was a good 3 minutes up the road and bagged a 2nd in category. 

I’m (we’re) calling it a training ride and taking lessons from it. I’m not the quickest of learners so I doubt they’ll stick, but for now at least I’ve learned not to do a big ride 2 days before a Sportive; and not to have ridiculously high hopes. When we were out training for The Running Thing this morning we also decided that it’s pretty hard to train for The Running Thing at the same time as Cycling Things.