Le Tour De Bolton

Yesterday me and my beautiful wife took part in the Le Tour De Bolton Sportive, organised by Epic Events. You might think that a bike ride around Bolton might not be too much fun, but it’s not an area that we cycle around very often. In fact, Helen hadn’t previously cycled a single segment over the whole 60 miles. We arrived nice and early so that we could be off first, as we didn’t want to be out too long. H was also worried about the hills, especially The Rake, which is described by Simon Warren in his iconic climbing books thus – catch your breath if you can and turn right into the almost impossible 25% stretch to the top. If that wasn’t enough, we also had to climb Crown Point, Anglezarke and Sheep House Lane, along with a fair number of less spectacular climbs, adding up to over 1600m of climbing.

The route and profile can be found here.

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The start/finish was at a local school and as we set off out through the gates and onto the road I noticed a group of about a dozen cyclists off to one side who joined us as the moment we started. I know that some people like to ride sportives without paying, but at least don’t do it blatantly. Maybe wait a day or two, or even the following week. The event wasn’t that expensive and the organisers have spent many hours putting out all of the directional arrows, so don’t be a complete d*ck. Rant over.

The first few miles were busy with other riders, but fortunately very little traffic, so it was generally plain sailing until we hit The Rake. Although there was one guy riding a TT bike who was a bit wobbly. Not the bike for the course thought I. When we hit The Rake there were plenty of people walking near the bottom. H felt a bit trapped in and put on a burst to get some room, before reaching the very steep section. She didn’t quite manage all the way up without getting off, but made it far higher than many others. With a grin we continued, passing that one guy who hates to be chicked and just had to try to overtake us at any opportunity.

The feed stop was located in Oswaldthistle, and was busy but fully stocked with everything you could want, manned brilliantly by some local cubs and scouts. My brother-in-law was doing Velo Birmingham on the same day, and the first feed station had nothing left when he reached it.

We didn’t stop long, although I had the bright idea to tip my black coffee into my half empty water bottle. Lemon hydro plus coffee – not a good taste. Unfortunately the roads were now starting to get busy with cars and we also had to negotiate a couple of main roads, so it wasn’t until we hit the lower slopes of Anglezarke that we could relax again. Amazingly this was the first time that I had ridden the whole climb, and what a place for the official photographer.

We then turned onto Sheep House Lane for the last big climb of the day, although H nearly missed the turn. The Lane was also very busy with cars and motorbikes, combined with some very narrow sections of road. You can see why Ironman UK has such a fearsome reputation, as this Lane has to be climbed twice. We zipped down into Belmont, avoided a prat in a crap car, and made it back to the finish area with big smiles.

Epic Events put on some great events, including the Howgills Triathlon which I did last month (here), and it’s always good to be able to download the photos for free. We probably wouldn’t do this particular sportive again, but H does want to return to have another crack at The Rake. Finally, even though it wasn’t a race, my fit wife did manage to win her age group.

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Book Review 2017 – Part IX

Walking Home from Mongolia is the second book by Rob Lilwall that I’ve read. The first one was reviewed here, where he cycled from Siberia back home to the UK, the long way. I enjoyed it, although there was a little bit too much religion.

In this book he decides to walk from Mongolia to Hong Kong, a distance of 3,000 miles. He asked his old friend Al to join him, but he was busy. Instead he was joined by Leon McCarron, who I reviewed here when he cycled across America.Leon wasn’t just going to walk with Rob, he was going to film it for a TV series.

As expected, they had some problems along the way, and as with Rob’s other adventure they didn’t always see eye to eye. A lack of Visas and extreme cold were other problems, but if I’m completely honest, I didn’t really enjoy this book. It didn’t make me want to go out on an adventure. It also came across that neither man was really enjoying the walk by the end. I think I’ll stick to cycling books.

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I don’t just throw together these reviews randomly. The second book, Thunder and Sunshine is by Al Humphreys, and as you know, Al was Rob’s cycling buddy in Siberia. This is the second book by Al and you can read about the other book here. In this book he continues to write about his cycle ride around the world, mainly up the whole of the Americas. As with book review part VIII (here) there is once again the small problem of there being no roads between Columbia and Panama, although Rob does cycle through much of Columbia, and finds it to be one of the most welcoming countries he visits.

The most intriguing section of the book is the Siberian part, this time from Al’s perspective. I really enjoyed this book, which goes to show that I am definitely more of a cycling person and not a walking type of guy.

Book Review 2017 – Part VIII

I’ve been a bit slack recently with new blogs posts and I haven’t written anything new here. Instead this is a book review that I wrote over a month ago and never got round to typing it up. Two books once again, although very different.

First up is The Longest Road: An Irish Pan-American Cycling Adventure by Ben Cunningham. So many long distance cycling books, it’s almost as if I can’t get enough. This particular book saw a group of Irish cycling novices traverse from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska all the way down to Patagonia. Very different style once again, as these guys had a support vehicle for almost all of the journey, with a large trailer for all of their luggage. Not something that I would consider, but it is one way of doing it. They also liked to drink and party whenever possible. Having their own security through Mexico and parts of South America is probably not warranted, although travelling in such a large group, sometimes up to a dozen of them, would draw attention. Also, it’s got to be expensive.

As with all of the books that I’ve read, they were advised to miss out Columbia, especially as apparently there are no roads between Panama and Columbia. I find that hard to believe. It would be like no roads between England and Scotland and you’d have to go via Ireland. Truly bizarre.

I finished that book while me and the wife were cycle touring around the Highlands of Scotland. One night we stayed in a converted train, which was brilliant. They also had a selection of books, so I left Ben’s book and picked up one about the British Wrestling scene.

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The Wrestling was written a few years ago by Simon Garfield, before the recent resurgence in British Wrestling, so it does dwell on former glories up to the early 90’s when ITV cancelled wrestling from World of Sport.

I will be honest, I was always a big wrestling fan as I was growing up, and if I had more time I would probably continue to watch it every week. Back to the book, and a lot of the names are from the 50’s and 60’s, who I didn’t recognize, but once we hit the 80’s it was totally my era. I was slightly disappointed that my favourite wrestler, Ironfist Clive Myers didn’t get a mention.

It was also sad reading about the demise of British wrestling, especially as this period coincided with the rise of American Sports Entertainment with the WWF, now the WWE. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but as I said, I was and still am a wrestling fan. It would be good to see a few extra chapters from the last five years; new names and new stars, for example, Gentleman Jack Gallagher, Will Osprey or Neville.

Salford Triathlon – The Swim

Yesterday I blogged about my first triathlon of the year. You can read about it here. A few weeks earlier I completed the swim as part of a work relay.

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I work at Wardell-Armstrong, who have been one of the sponsors of the Salford Triathlon since it’s inception. Because of the sponsorship, the firm is given four free places, and so that as many people as possible can take part all four places are used in the relay event. Knowing that there would be a lack of swimmers I put my name down, even though it is my slowest discipline. It was also only the second time this year that I’ve put on my wetsuit. They shrink in the winter.

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The swim was in Salford Quay, which is probably one of the cleanest places I’ve swam in. The last time I swam there was a 10km, which was definitely a bit long. This time the bouys had been put out in the right places, and with there wasn’t too much agro with the start, which was nice.

I was hoping for about 30 minutes, which was almost exactly what I did, although it was a long run into transition for the handover to my colleague on the bike.

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Once I’d handed over I got myself changed and walked around much of the bike course to cheer on my work colleagues. The problem was that I really wanted to be doing the whole thing, even though I’m a long way off full fitness, which was why later that weekend I entered the Sedbergh Triathlon, and I might even manage another race in September.

My team mates also did really well, as we came in fifth team overall, and fourth men’s team. Next year though, I will definitely do the whole race.

Howgills Triathlon

A couple of weeks ago I took part in a relay triathlon, where I did the swim leg, even though swimming is my weakest discipline. I had a great time but I couldn’t help thinking that I should have been doing the whole thing. My last triathlon was over a year ago, although it was quite long (read about my triple ironman here).

Fortuitously, on my Facebook feed an advert turned up for the Epic Events Howgills Triathlon, starting and finishing in Sedbergh, so only a few miles down the road from Lancaster. It was also a Saturday race, which makes a nice change and gives you enough time to recover for work on Monday. I was off at 11:22, so again, no stupidly early start.

The race was based at Sedbergh school, which was very posh. Registered and bike racked with plenty of time to spare, me and my beautiful wife headed to the pool to watch the earlier waves. The swim was 400m, with three people in each lane and only four lanes, meant that it was not too busy. The funny layout of the pool did mean that we were starting and finishing in the deep end, which some people found difficult to climb out, and then you had to go up a flight of stairs, across the balcony and then down more stairs before a short run to transition.

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One guy in my wave decided that the run to transition was too far to run barefoot. No issues in transition, and I managed to press the correct buttons on the watch I was borrowing. I was using my wife’s Garmin 920 which has a triathlon setting. It all worked well, recording my split times and transition times.

Onto the bike and it was a route that I’ve done many times. Out and back from Sedbergh, towards Kirkby Stephen. The route is mainly uphill on the way out, and as expected it rained. Sedbergh has it’s own micro-climate where it always rains. Coming back there was a pleasant headwind. With the small waves there wasn’t too many people for me to catch, or to be caught by. The bike route was just under 20 miles, which took be almost exactly 1 hour.

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One thing I like about Epic Events is that they post photos on Facebook for free, which is a nice added touch. I had also given my trusty Scott Addict a clean (read about my bikeĀ here).

Once again I had no issues in transition and was soon out on the run. I was using an old pair of trail shoes as the run went up to the top of Winder Fell, although the first mile was on pavements which my feet were not too happy about. The road soon headed up, and suitably cheered on by my wife I continued up on the road. The last mile before the turn around point was off road and steep, with one section very rocky. I continued to run for a while but soon I was walking as the fell continued up and up. The views from the top were amazing, although my lower back was very sore. Apparently this is common when trying to run up steep fells.

I’m not a good feel runner so I was overtaken by quite a few people on the way down, although I overtook most of them once we reached tarmac. My left knee was a little sore from running downhill, but was fine once I was on the last flat mile to the finish. Even though the run was only five and a bit miles, it took me 50 minute. There was almost 400m of climbing.

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There were lots of cheers from complete strangers as I crossed the line. Bottle of water, medal and a hug from the wife. Total time was just over 2 hours and I finished in 30th position out of 100+. Not my best performance, but I’m not fully fit so I was happy to just enjoy the race. My toes were a bit sore from running without socks, but apart from that I didn’t feel too bad for my 54th triathlon.

I probably won’t do the Sedbergh Triathlon again due to the run, but I will definitely do more races from Epic Events, well organised and marshalled, and not too expensive.

#Bemoredoug

This is a difficult blog entry to write. A few days ago Doug Waymark died while swimming the channel. Last year another swimmer, Nick Thomas, also died. Both men were part of the ultra-distance triathlon community, which isn’t very large, so you see many of the same faces at every race.

In 2014 I successfully completed a double ironman, after a DNF in 2013. I finished 12th. Doug was 13th, although all we both wanted was to finish relatively unscathed. He was 4 years younger than me, which is no age to die. His family and friends set up the hashtag #bemoredoug, hence the title of my blog entry, to make it easier for people to discover what a great bloke he was and to share stories.

In 2016 I completed a triple ironman. Over the three days of racing there were various other races and distances, including what was called a 3-2-1 swim. This involved a triple ironman swim on the Friday, a double on the Saturday and a single on the Sunday. A total of 14.4 miles of swimming. One competitor in this event, seen in the photo below without a wetsuit, was Nick.

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Nick was training for a cross channel swim later in the year, and when not doing the 3-2-1 swim he helped out with the other races over the weekend. When I crossed the finish line he handed me my medal and I could see the pleasure on his face that I’d completed what for me was a huge challenge.

“He died doing what he loved” was one of the tributes to Nick last year. I don’t want to die doing what I love, I want to live doing what I love. I want to die in my own bed when I’m in my 100’s, having lead a full life.

I’ll soon be 50, and there is so much out there that I want to do. The untimely deaths of these great and wonderful men has hit me hard. I need to make things happen before it’s too late. I don’t have a bucket list, it’s too cliched, but here are a few of the adventures I am going to start planning.

  • Big adventure – spend a couple of years cycling round the world.
  • Medium adventure – complete 50 and then 100 parkruns across the whole of the UK.
  • Small adventure – drink quality rum from Guyana, snuggling on the sofa with my beautiful wife while watching Game of Thrones series 7.

Rest in Piece Doug and Nick, you’ll both be missed by so many people.

A complete lack of swimming etiquette

If you swim more often than once or twice a year, you’ll soon realise that there is a certain amount of swimming etiquette, generally in the lanes. The obvious ones being don’t get in the fast lane if you’re going to swim really really slowly. Another one that annoys my wife is when people stand around chatting at the end of the lane and don’t move out of the way when she’s trying to turn. I suggested that when it happens she should practice her tumble turns.

I generally don’t get bothered by it because I tend to go swimming either first thing in the morning or late at night. When I started my new job in Leigh I went swimming in the local pool each Monday, but it was far too warm and the ‘fast’ lane was decidedly slow. I found a different pool in Howe Bridge, only a couple of miles from work. The temperature is cooler and it’s far less busy. The pool could do with a bit of a re-vamp, but I like the place.

They have two lanes set up in the morning, but they very rarely have the directional boards, like the one in the photo.

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This shouldn’t be a problem, but today I came across something new. There was someone already in the lane as I got in. I waited to see which side she came back on before I set off. As I turned around at the end of the pool she was coming towards me.

“Are we going round and round” she asked me.

“Always” I replied, a bit surprised. I must have sounded a bit gruff by the look she gave me, so I asked her what would we do if a third person got in the lane. She was obviously a bit put out as she moved into the main pool and I had the lane to myself. I’ve probably swam in dozens of different pools all over the country, and I’ve never come across people wanting to swim up and down a lane, one on each side. To me it makes perfect sense to swim clockwise or anti-clockwise. Maybe it’s just me getting old and becoming a grumpy old man.

In other news, I’ve entered my first triathlon of the year. The Howgills sprint triathlon in Sedbergh next weekend. I’ll see you there.