300 Rides

I’ve now done 300 rides on my trusty Scott Addict, bought second hand two and a half years ago. I’ve blogged about it (him) before (here), but I thought that I would blog again as I’ve reached a good milestone.

300 rides is about 2-3 rides every week, although he does get used more in the winter as my Principia, even after 17 years, is my summer bike (here). Back to my Scott, and my Eddington scores are 67 miles and 91 km. If you don’t know what Eddington scores are you can read about it here and here. My longest continuous ride was 323 km when I was training for a triple ironman (here), although I managed further during the triple with a few hours sleep.

The hilliest ride was when I had an unsuccessful Everesting attempt, where I made it 7200m of climbing. Monsoon conditions, numb hands and a puncture ended my attempt, although you can read about my other Everesting attempts here and here.

My total mileage in 13,500 miles, which works out at 45 miles per ride, which isn’t too bad, especially as my commuting bike works out at less than 8 miles per ride. Climbing works out at 695m per ride, which again isn’t too bad as I spent a year riding on the flat lands of Hull.

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Final pointless statistic is that I’ve received on average 56 kudos per ride, making my Scoot my most kudos’d bike.

So, here’s to the next 200 rides as I’ll blog about him once again when I reach 500.

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Segments x 100

One thing I like about Veloviewer is the segment analysis page, which also lets me know that I’ve done over 12,000 different segments. I can also sort them by how many times I’ve done them. I have now done 99 segments 100 times or more.

After ten months of commuting to and from Wigan, there are now five segments in the area that I’ve done 100 times. I’ve attempted the ‘Ince Park’ segment 104 times, although it isn’t too exiting.

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Due to traffic and being on my commuting bike I’m nowhere near the top of the leader board, but that OK.

The segment that I’ve done the most times is still ‘Dallas Road Pothole Dash’, with 529 times, although the last time I did it was May last year, so it might not stay at the top too much longer.

The segment that I’ve done that has been done by the most people is ‘Embankment Bridge to Waterloo Bridge’ with over 25,000 different athletes having done it. I remember a few years ago being exited when a segment had been done by over 1,000 different people. If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen 🙂

The Sights I See

Commuting each day from Lancaster to Leigh via Wigan wouldn’t sound as if there was too much to see, but you would be wrong. Let me tell you about some of the sights that I see.

I am sure that The Preston International Hotel easily matches the delights of Vegas or Monaco.

The Wigan football stadium is majestic, although I would prefer to visit it for a non sporting occasion.

The Swan and Railway pub near to the station. Trip Advisor has some good reviews, so it could be the one nice pub located in an oasis of turgidness that is King Street. The most depressing selection of drinking establishments ever gathered on one street. Although I was interested in seeing the covers band Slipknowt.

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There is a caravan park near Scorton that has a big slide going into the river. That looks like fun.

Virgin trains reserve two seats for cyclists. What they say is ‘Reserved cyclist’, which is me. But what if you’re an out going kind of person riding a bike, where do you sit. Is there a reserved seat for ‘Flamboyant cyclist’?

Santos & Co. have been making sweets in Wigan since 1898, including Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls. Give ’em to your granny and watch the bugger go, as Mike Harding used to sing.

Not a sight, but at 17:15 every day, an automated announcement at Wigan train station telling you to keep an eye on your belongings as any unattended bags will be removed without warning. Surely this is a warning.

There are some nice statues.

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The Silverwell pub still has a banner outside advertising Euro ’16.

A Doctors surgery on Organ Street.

On 13th April 2017 I saw a narrowboat navigating the Wigan series of locks. First time I had seen a moving boat on the canal.

The Virgin ticket inspectors had badges with ‘Revenue Protection’ printed.

Have you ever seen a pedestrian crossing for horses? There is one in Wigan.

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Bikes on Trains…. again

I’ve blogged about the problems I’ve had with taking my bike on a train before (here), and once again I’m the victim of the vagaries of Virgin Trains.

Last week I tried to catch the 17:38 train from Wigan to Lancaster, with my bike. I had a bike reservation, so no problem. I would never try to take a bike on a train without a reservation, unless the company don’t do them (here). The train was a little delayed, but not enough for a refund. The platform staff were all ready to unlock the bicycle storage compartment, when the train manager said ‘no more bikes’. Both myself and the platform staff mentioned that I had a reservation, but the moron on the train wasn’t having any of it. He’d let a load of people on with bikes who didn’t have reservations.

If that happens it’s quite simple. One of the people without a bike reservation gets off the train and I get on. I’ve seen it happen in the morning at Preston, where someone without a reservation had to make way for four bikes, who had reservations.

The unsympathetic train manager suggested that I get the next train. Great idea, except I don’t have a reservation for that train, and I’ll have to wait another 45 minutes. I wasn’t happy. The platform staff told the train manager that he was in the wrong, but there was nothing more they could do. As I watched the train roll out of the station without me, one of the platform staff got on the radio to get me a reservation for the next train. He also told me that he wouldn’t let the train leave the station without me on it. They couldn’t have been more helpful. Complete opposite of the tosser on the train.

At Wigan today, the platform staff asked me it I’d complained. I had, but hadn’t had more than an automated response, so he told me to complain again. Not a good system, although to be fair to Virgin, they do appear to be the best of a bad lot.

On Finding My Mojo

Since my Triple Ironman last year (here) I’ve been struggling with my mojo, culminating earlier in the year with some serious soul searching (read about it here). But, the last month has seen a complete turn around, which is down to four things.

Firstly, I’ve been able to run again with the help of some very specific stretches. I’ve not been going far, but I’ve done three park runs in the last month.

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Secondly, I reached the mile stone of completing 300 Strava challenges, and to celebrate I rode 300km, from Lanarkshire to Lancashire (read about it here). I wasn’t sure when I set off whether I would make it, but my wife said that I looked like I’d been for a walk in the park when I arrived home.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I had a great cycling holiday with my wife up in the highlands of Scotland. It was fantastic and I especially relished the fact that you have to take it easy when you’re loaded up with panniers.

Finally, Veloviewer added a new metric, the maximum cluster score (read about it here). I won’t explain it again, but to improve your score you have to search out new roads and places you’ve not been before.

In the last month I can safely say that my mojo has returned and I’m back to enjoying going out cycling and running, on my own or with my beautiful wife.

Book Review 2017 – Part VII

So many books to read, so many reviews to write, and too much time spent at work. Never-mind, here’s a Dean Koontz double bill.

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I’ve been a Dean Koontz fan for almost 30 years, when my Uncle lent me a copy of Phantoms, which scared the hell out of me. In the years between I have probably read most of his books, even though he is fairly prolific. I wasn’t a fan of his Frankenstein series of books, as for me they didn’t really work, but otherwise I have enjoyed all of his work.

Recently my wife has started to read some of his books, so with an Amazon voucher from work I bought two of Mr Koontz’s finest; Watchers and Lightning.

Lightning is a time travelling thriller, where a mystery man keeps popping up to save a young girl’s life. Where does he come from, or more correctly, when? The ‘science’ part of the book is definite ‘fiction’, but it’s a great read, and the ‘when’ is not what you expect.

Watchers is more horror than thriller, although it does have an intelligent dog as the hero. Apparently Mr Koontz receives more fan letters about this book than any other, and I can see why. I’ve read it at least 3 or 4 times, and will probably read it again in the not too distant future.

The dog, our hero, brings together two lonely people and between the three of them they have an adventure. I don’t want to say too much as my wife is only half way through, and I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but suffice it to say – it’s a great read.

That should be my catch phrase for book reviews – it’s a great read. You can find all of my other book reviews here.

Triple Ironman

It’s about time that I got round to writing about my continuous triple ironman distance race from 2016, also known as Enduroman. I’ll try to keep this report a little shorter than the one for my double ironman in 2014 (read about it here).

There are loads of M-dot races to chose from each year, but for some reason there is much less choice when it comes to ultra triathlons, especially if you don’t want to race abroad. Enduroman or Brutal? The Brutal has the run going up Snowdonia, living up to it’s name, so I plumped once again for Enduroman. I’d raced there in 2013 and 2014, giving 2015 a miss. I was also upping the distance from a double to a triple. What an idiot, didn’t I learn anything from last time. Before sending off my entry fee (less than IMUK, read about my 2017 ironman journey here) I talked it over with my partner, who is now my wife. She was very supportive and told me to go for it.

I knew from 2014 that I needed to run more, so I ran at least 200km a month for the preceding 6 months, running most days in the build up, as well as a 32 mile run at the Halloween Hell on the Humber.

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I reduced the number of times I was swimming, but did complete my longest pool swim ever, over 8km (read about it here). I also did a whole load of century rides and one double century, where I set off at midnight to simulate riding when tired. I was as ready as I was ever going to be. We took Nell (our loyal pooch) to Helen’s Mum, loaded up the car with bikes, food and tent, and off we went.

It’s a long old drive from Lancaster to Avon Tyrell in the New Forrest. Tent erected, small talk with Clive and Graham, before 1 lap of the bike course. Race briefing, plenty of familiar faces and an early night, although someone decided to crank out some Queen.

The triple started on the Friday at the ungodly hour of 9am. More than enough time to borrow a reflective vest off Clive, as mine wasn’t reflective enough for riding at night.

The lake isn’t particularly big, and I can’t remember how many laps were required, but I think it was about 40. A short swim brief from Dan and we were off. There were only 18 entries for the triple, along with half a dozen doing the 3-2-1 swim, which was a triple distance swim on the Friday, a double swim on the Saturday finishing off with a single on the Sunday. As you can see from the photo below it wasn’t your usual mass swim start.

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The guy without the wetsuit is Nick Thomas, who tragically died later in the year attempting to swim the channel. I only met you a couple of times but you were unfailingly friendly. Far too young.

One of the funny things about ultra tri’s is that very few of us come from a swimming background, so there would be a few finishing close to the 8 hour swim cut-off. I’m smiling in the photo below because I’ve only got a couple of laps to go.

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Each lap we had to swim alongside a jetty and shout out our number, and this year I managed not to lose count. One of the other competitors had placed a large clock on the bank, so we could see the time ticking slowly round. On your last lap a message would be relayed from the lap counters to your support crew so that they would be ready to help. As you can see from the photo below the swim had taken a large bite out of me, although I was fifth out of the water in a time of 3 hours 51 mins. (Strava swim activity here).

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I made my way to the changing tent, with the help of my wife, removed my wetsuit and changed into cycling gear, and then sat down for lunch. Not your usual transition as I took 41 mins.

The bike course involved 29 relatively flat laps, which got progressively hillier as the days wore on. There were also problems with rubbish drivers, new forest ponies and cattle grids. My plan was to use my Fuji Tri bike (photo below) during daylight and my Scott Addict (here) at night.

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Nutrition wise, my plan was to eat real food as much as possible, and then have a proper sit down meal twice a day. In my first bike session I managed 7 laps, although the swim had taken far more out of me than I had expected, with my neck, shoulders and elbows all feeling it. My right wrist was also hurting from going over cattle grids at speed on my tri bars.

A couple of laps into the bike course it was a pleasant sight to see Chris Wild with Helen at the race HQ. He had crewed for me during my double in 2014 and it was great to have him back once again.

Hot food, coffee and trifle and I was ready for the first night session. I didn’t eat all of the trifles, but I did have 2 or 3.

Tea

Out on the Scott and I started to feel better, and had soon knocked out another 6 laps. Before the race I had decided that if I felt tired, dangerously tired, I would stop for a sleep, and on my 14th lap I almost nodded off. I would have liked to have gone over half way, but I climbed off the bike, handed it to Chris and headed to the tent for a few hours of sleep. Helen had gone to the tent a couple of hours earlier, having decided that she crew for me on her own in the mornings, and Chris would do the evenings, with both of them crewing in the day.

A few more laps the next morning, breakfast followed by a 30 minute power nap, before pushing on through the day to finish the bike leg in 29 hours and 11 mins. Initially I had hoped to complete the bike leg in under 24 hours, but as I said, the swim had taken it’s toll. (Strava bike activities here, here, here and here).

Finishing the bike coincided nicely with tea time, and another 30 minute transition. A quick change into running gear, and off I went “running”. The run consists of an undulating technical 1.1 mile lap, which had to be completed 72 times. I managed 11 laps before I slowed so much that it made sense for another sleep. In the tent I woke Helen up with some of the most noxious pumps ever, sorry about that.

Three hours later and off I set once again. Chris climbed out of his camper van in time for breakfast and was amazed to see that I’d knocked out another half marathon. Like most competitors I was running the downhill and flat bits and walking the uphill, although this still meant that each lap would take 20 mins. Walking a whole lap seemed to take forever.

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I had specifically told Chris and Helen that I didn’t want to know my position in the race, as as far as I was concerned I was only up against myself. Plus, a good friend had come unstuck in 2014 racing the triple (read his blog here). After the race I found out that there were two people hot on my heels who closed the gap on me every time I stopped for a rest, but once I started again I would pull away. One of them was walking the “run” wearing a pair of big walking boots. That would have been embarassing if his run had been quicker than mine.

I did however know that 1st and 2nd were having an epic battle, and had decided to run together until half a lap to go, whereupon they would race to the line. I had completed 2 of the 3 marathons, so I sat down with Helen and Chris to watch them finish. It was unbelievable watching these two guys all out sprinting to the finish line after 50+ hours of racing.

Only 1 marathon left for me, so off I plodded. One problem I had was that ever time I stopped for a break it would take me a whole lap to get running once again. The advice from one of the other runners was obvious, don’t stop.

The lowest point for me came with 13 laps to go. My feet were killing me, so Helen massaged them with neurofen gel. I knew at that point I could finish, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to, as I couldn’t face another 6 or 7 hours. A hug and cry with Helen and off I set once again, determined not to stop until I was finished.

Getting down to single laps to go was a real boost, and Chris had placed a box of edible goodies on a bench on the opposite side of the run lap, which was nice. As with the swim I wasn’t having any trouble remembering what lap I was on. When I crossed the start/finish line with 5 laps to go, Helen, smiling, told me I only had 6 to go. Also smiling, I told her she could f*ck her 6 laps and that I was only doing 5.

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Soon it was time for my last lap, and at Enduroman this is done in reverse, so you get to see everyone. I had high-fived a very tired looking Matt Pritchard earlier in the day when he was on his last lap to finish in third place. I found this last lap to be very emotional in 2014, but this year I was just happy that it was over. The run had taken me 24 hours and 8 mins. (Strava run activities here, here, here and here).

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Hugs at the end, followed by a chicken dinner before being helped back to the tent. Helen asked me if I wanted more food. Yes please I replied, and then two minutes later I was fast asleep.

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I finished in 7th place in a time of 58 hours and 23 mins, with only 5 DNFs. Not surprisingly it took me most of the summer to recover and I’m still not sure if I’ll ever do another long distance race, as at the moment I’m enjoying just going out cycling and taking it easy.

At the end of last year at the COLT Christmas do, I was awarded a trophy. Biggest idiot award I think, although Chris made a great speech.

Finally, there is no way that I would even have made the starting line if it hadn’t been for my wife, Helen. She has also promised to write about my triple, from the point of view of a support crew and loved one, which should be interesting.