A Mini Adventure Around Skipton

Today was an unexpected day off, combined with a weather forecast suggesting it would be relatively warm and free from rain. To make the most of it I caught the first train of the day from Lancaster to Skipton. Northern Trains, so I wasn’t able to book my bike, but it wasn’t a problem. I also bought a return ticket as it only cost £1 more than a single.

skipton1

The idea of going to Skipton was so that I could grab a few more Veloviewer squares, with the long term plan of linking my cluster with the riding I did in Hull a couple of years ago. If all this means nothing to you, I have blogged about Veloviewer a few times (here).

With a carefully set out route I set off from Skipton station just after 8am, and headed to the hills. As I mentioned, the weather forecast suggested that it would be 5-7 degrees and dry. The actual forecast around Skipton was 2-3 degrees and plenty of rain, combined with a smattering of hail and sleet. My route was also phenomenally hilly, with snow and ice on the tops. Another reason for taking my Trek 920.

Skipton2

At the bottom of the first big descent I crossed over the Leeds to Liverpool Canal, although I had to wait as a boat passed.

Skipton3

A few more hills and a winding route to maximise square grabbing, before heading back into Skipton. I was pleased that I had bought a return ticket as my feet were cold and wet, as was much of the rest of me, despite putting on an extra layer. My revised plan was to follow my route to Gargrave and then return to Skipton to catch the 10.55 train. A couple of hilly dead-end dirt tracks meant that I had to revise my plan once again, to catch the return train from Gargrave. I had intended to cross over the busy A65 and ride along the canal towpath, but with less than ten minutes I had to get my head down and push it into Gargrave, making the train with less than one minute to spare.

The next train wasn’t for another three hours, and if I’d missed it I would have just cycled home. The route from Gargrave is a bit boring and I had done the same only ten days earlier, and with no easy squares I wasn’t too worried about my ride only being 30 miles, albeit it with over 1,000 m of climbing.

Back home and once uploaded to Strava I updated Veloviewer. The end result was 23 new squares and an extra 33 squares added to my cluster. I’m into the top 50, although I still have a long way to go to catch up with my old friend The Prof.

The before and after can be seen below.

skipton5

skipton4

The next challenge will be to link the cluster to Keighley and over to Otley. There are still a whole load of squares required to link up with Hull, but I’m sure I’ll manage it this year.

 

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Milestones – Part I

Since joining Strava back in May 2012, I have notched up over 100,000 km of cycling. Fairly impressive, or not, depending on your point of view. Not as impressive as some of the mile munchers on Strava, but I have a full time job, and I like spending time with my beautiful wife and loyal dog, instead of long rides all weekend every weekend, which is what I used to do a few years ago.

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The weather today was terrible, almost freezing and cold rain/sleet to contend with. As I only required 6 km to reach my milestone, my ride today was a paltry 6.3 km. Just enough.

Some stats for you. My first ride on Strava was on 27th May 2012 from the Universities Triathlon Championships in Nottingham. Strava upload is here. Pop over and be the first to give me kudos on my first Strava ride.

My 100,000 km has taken 2065 days, which works out at 48.4 km per day. I’ve ridden 2951 times, so each ride works out at 33.9 km. From Veloviewer I can see that I’ve climbed 914,500 m and received 52,895 kudos. My longest ride was 402.9 km and my hilliest was my Everesting attempt with 8879 m of climbing.

Ironman Loop

I’m not doing Ironman UK this year (or any year), but when the legendary Chris Wild organises a gentle recce of the loop, it’s rude not to go. I’ve done the loop a few years ago when it was three laps, but I’ve never done the newer two lap version, plus, I’ve never done the final section into Bolton. As an added bonus, my beautiful wife Helen wanted to come along, even though she also has no plans to enter IMUK either, or any ironman race.

Nine of us set off from Queen’s Park, which is the new location for T2 instead of the Reebok Stadium, and gently headed out of Bolton along the main road, all the way to Adlington and Babylon Lane. This section of road has the noisiest fans you’ll find anywhere on the course, mostly from COLT (The City of Lancaster Triathlon Club). The photo below makes it look like a large hill, but I guarantee on race day you’ll fly up it.

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Yesterday, it didn’t look like this. After Babylon Lane the first tester of the day arrives in the form of Sheephouse Lane. Again you’ll find noisy supporters near the top, many dressed at masked Mexican wrestlers (?). It’s a long climb, but the steep sections are fairly short. The descent is safe-ish as well. Into Belmont and it’s a fast main road for the next few miles, followed by another main road, which isn’t really conducive for a group of nine triathletes having a chat as we cycled round the route. Some of the driving we saw was unbelievably bad.

I should also point out that in places the road surface is absolutely terrible, especially near Wheelton where you cross over the top lock section of the Leeds to Liverpool Canal. It’s also quite technical here, so take it a little easier. During the loop I was asked if I would use a Tri-bike or regular road bike if I was racing. My answer is whatever your most comfortable with. If you use a Tri-bike make sure you can descend safely and that you can climb. Also make sure that you don’t have a silly cassette without low enough gears for the two big climbs. As for tyres, I would go with 25mm if they will fit, and I would sacrifice a little speed for durability. My choice of tyre is a Specialized Armadillo, but Conti 4 seasons or Schwalbe Marathon Plus would also work well, instead of puncture prone Vittoria or similar.

We didn’t have a cafe stop on our loop, but we did stop a few times for nutrition, or ‘biscuits’ in my case. Proper race nutrition isn’t really my strong point. I was seen eating a bag of Hula-Hoops on the run during my Triple Ironman.

ironman route

On the route everyone is wary of Sheephouse Lane, but the other climb, Hunters Hill is just as bad. It’s not as long but the steep section is steeper. I was riding with a compact chainset and a 12-27 cassette. I had one gear left up Sheephouse, but used the bottom one on Hunters Hill. At the bottom of the hill you can see a white house. This is the end of the steep section and you’re nearly there once you reach it. Again on race day there will be hundreds of people to cheer you on, many of them drunk as there is a pub at the top. The pub are also happy to fill up water bottles when you’re out training, or lend you a pair of pliers is you can’t remove the funny washer thing from your inner tube if you get a flat.

At the top, while waiting for the puncture repair, another group of cyclists appeared, one of them wearing a Hells 500 top. Always good to meet a fellow Everester!

From the top of Hunters Hill it’s only a few miles back to Babylon Lane, where you’ll begin your second lap. We were tempted by the brilliant Phil Walton for a brew, but time was getting on so we headed straight back to Bolton. Once again the traffic was awful, something you won’t need to worry about on race day, but be careful out there on a recce.

We did 60 miles, which included one full lap and the out and back section from Bolton, although the ‘out’ section on race day will be from Pennington Flash, but is about the same distance. The route does look a little like a phoenix rising out of the ashes of Bolton.

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One of our little group, Tammy, was ecstatic with completing her first full lap of the course, and given how much she’s improved over the winter, she’ll have a great race day in July.

As for me, I’ll be stood on Babylon Lane with a burger or chocolate, cheering you on, doing my best Seasick Steve impression.

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Wherever you’re racing this year, have a great one.

Races for 2018

It’s that time of year when people enter races, unless it’s Ironman, which you’ll have entered months ago. I’ve been busily using my debit card and have entered a plethora of races for 2018. First up is a trail race.

Grizedale Half Marathon – 4th February

I’ve not done a ‘real’ running race for a few years, and it could well be over ten years since I last did a half marathon, except for on Strava. I’m not totally running fit, but it should be nice to run somewhere different and not worry about my pace as I’ll be quite happy to sneak in under 2 hours.

No Excuses Sportive – 25th march

The name ‘no excuses’ is because this particular sportive is free. You sign up and pay your £40 entry fee, but if you finish it then you get your money back, which sounds good to me. The start and finish is in Carlisle and heads out to the coast, an area that I’ve not cycled before, which makes it even better.

Isoman – 30th June

This is my big race of the year, and it is bonkers. The idea is that each discipline is given equal time, so using a complicated formula based on world records, the organisers have come up with a ‘game changer’ of a triathlon. The full race, which I’m doing involves a 7 mile swim, 61 mile bike and then a full marathon. I’m fairly sure that the swim puts most people off. There are also half and quarter distances available, although the quarter still has a 1.75 mile swim. The entry fee was also a fraction of Ironman, which is another bonus.

Hurly Burly 10km Swim – 30th September

To finish the year I’ve entered an open water swim in North Wales. Set in Barmouth, the swim starts off the beach and then heads upstream, although with the tide the organisers state that this could easily be the fastest 10km in the country.

As we head into the year I might enter a few more races, but for now, these are the ones that I’m concentrating on. Say ‘Hi’ if you’re at any of them, I’m the one with the beard.

 

Book Review 2018 – Part I

Time for my first book review of 2018, or more accurately, my last book review of 2017 as both books were finished before Christmas. It’s unlikely that I will be reviewing as many older books this year. This Christmas and last Christmas, the company that I work for gave everyone a £200 one4all voucher, which I mainly spent on second hand books from the stores that sell through Amazon. Unfortunately, Amazon no longer accept one4all vouchers, but Waterstones do, so all is not lost, although the selection isn’t as good.

Back to the book review, and two really good books, Alone in Antarctica by Felicity Aston and Narrow Dog to Wigan Pier by Terry Darlington.

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Alone in Antarctica is all about one woman’s attempt to walk across the most inhospitable continent on the planet. Felicity had been to the area a few times, most recently walking to the pole with a group of women, but on your own is very different, especially if you’re setting off from the ‘wrong’ side and not stopping at the pole. I found it very interesting plotting her route, as she wanted to avoid crevasses, obviously, and not have to climb too many steep slopes towing all of her gear. The loneliness really comes across in the book, and I was hooked, although this is one area that I might not plan to cycle across.

Narrow Dog is on the whole a much more local book for me, as he writes about the area I know well. I’ve always loved canals, whether running, cycling or walking, or reading about them. You also can’t go wrong with a couple of less than intelligent but loveable dogs. This is Terry’s third book and I will be honest, I’ve not read the others. He doesn’t just write about canals and dogs, but also reminisces about his work and how he took up running. I enjoyed the chapter on the Lancaster canal, and loved his disparaging comments on the Huddersfield canal, saying that it was horrendous to navigate and that maybe it should have been left unpreserved.

Both books were good, although very different, with very little humour in the first, and a lot of dry humour in the second.

I am now also caught up with my book reviews, so my next review is for a book that I’m still reading.

Year in Review – 2018

It’s that time of the year when everyone posts about what they did in the previous year. 2018 for me was a quiet year with no major races. I did manage 19 races/events, which was made up of a couple of swims (here and here), a couple of sportives (here and here), one triathlon (here) and the rest were parkruns, reaching the milestone of 25 (here).

In last year’s review (here) I stated that I wanted to increase my Veloviewer explorer score, and my max explorer square. Job done on both of them as you can see in the images below. The top one is from the end of 2016, and the bottom one from the end of 2017.

cluster 2016bcluster 2017

I also stated that I intended to do Ironman UK. For various reasons that didn’t happen (here), although I wasn’t too disappointed. I also wanted to reach 300 Strava challenges, which I managed (here and here), and by the end of 2018 I was up to 368, so it won’t be too long before I hit 400. I also intended to blog at least once a week, and last year I blogged over 80 times, so another box ticked.

Distance wise, apart from swimming 100 miles, I wasn’t too worried about how far, although the excellent infographic from Veloviewer shows that I still did a few miles, and notched up something everyday.

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Other highlights of the year included a weekend away touring with my wife at Easter (here, here and here) and eight days cycling around the highlands of Scotland. I’ve not blogged about that because I’m aiming to release it as a free ebook, once I’ve finished writing it up. The touring with Helen is probably one of the reasons why the roster from Strava labs (here) indicates that in 2017 I completed 59 activities over a total of 6 days. Second was my old friend Professor Badass at 1.5 days and 10 activities.

I don’t really have specific targets for 2018, except more touring with my wife, and increasing my Veloviewer cluster. I might even enter the Salford Triathlon.

Here’s wishing you all a great 2018, and keep on keeping on.

The Rapha Festive 500 – 2017 Edition

The Rapha sponsored Festive 500 has become a bit of a Strava tradition, with the aim being to cycle 500km between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. It works out at 62.5km per day, or just under 40 miles. I’ve now completed six editions of this challenge, and you can read about the 2016 challenge here.

If you completed the challenge then Rapha send you a nice cloth badge, although I forgot to update my address last year, so I never received it, which was a shame. I mentioned last year that in 2012 only 4,000 people completed the challenge. This year I finished lower than 16,000th, and I did a bit extra so there could be another thousand or more behind me, which is an amazing achievement.

As expected the weather can play a big part in the challenge, and there were a couple of days when the temperature was below freezing with plenty of ice about. For that reason over half of this year’s challenge was completed on my Trek 920, the big tyre’d beast. Below is an image from Veloviewer showing where exactly I cycled for my 500+km.

festive 500 2017

Last year I posted some stats on how much of the total festive 500 distances has been completed on each of my bikes, so here is an update to include 2017.

  • Trek Cobia 112.7km 3.7%
  • Cannondale 145.9km 4.8%
  • Forme 219.2km 7.2%
  • Trek 920 276.5km 9.1%
  • Colnago 1051.9km 34.6%
  • Scott 1230.2km 40.5%

Last year I mentioned that I would have expected to still have the Scott, and as a consequence it has completed the most miles for the combined festive 500 challenges.

Looking forward to next year.