The Holcombe Duathlon and the end of the final block…

I’ve not run a single step since May this year, so there was no way I was going to take part in a duathlon. I don’t care how laid-back or grass-roots the event is, I wasn’t going to put my legs through that sort of nonsense right now. Nope, instead, me and Deb would take part as a relay team. Deb’s a pretty handy runner nowadays so I thought we’d do ok.

It was more exciting than I thought it was going to be….


The race started with only three relay teams and only two of those were mixed. So it was us or them. I waited patiently in the transition area, bike positioned ready, helmet on, caffeine gel down the neck. The runner in the other pair reached transition, she tagged her team mate and he rode off up the hill.

I waited.

I waited a bit more and started to worry – something must have happened to Deb.

Seven minutes after our rivals had handed over, Debbie returned. “I’ve been over on my ankle 3 times” she gasped.

I rode as fast as I could up the first climb in pursuit, not going if I’d be able to make up a seven minute gap over a hilly 16 mile route.

9 miles later, I caught the guy I was chasing and rode past. I’ve ridden this loop dozens of times, but never have I ridden it as fast as this.


By the time I reached transition again (where Deb was complaining that I’d gone ‘too quickly’), I’d created a 5 minute gap. It would have been a bit more if I hadn’t stupidly incurred a 20 second time penalty for not dismounting the bike in the right place. Always pay attention at the race briefing, kids….

Both runners were away. Deb had a 5 minute head start but had a dodgy ankle.

I chewed my nails a bit. There was a bottle of beer up for grabs for the relay winners.

In the end we finished second, but what a nail-biter! Everyone had given it their all, including the Holcombe Harriers who organised the whole thing. Well done to them!


So that’s pretty much it. All my training for the World 24 Hour race is done. I’m happy that I couldn’t have done any more, not without losing my job/marriage/sanity anyway. This means that the race can just happen now, whatever the outcome I know I’ll have given 100% in preparation for it and as long as I don’t catch a cold or crash on the first lap or some other surprise event, I should do ok. All I need to do now is pack my stuff, get on a plane on Thursday and show up at the start line. I’ll be back at work the Wednesday after….




Ruthin MTB Marathon and then some

According to the all-powerful Training Plan, this ride was about a week late. It didn’t matter really, I’ve not exactly been short of long rides recently but I ‘owed’ the All-Powerful Training Plan a 9 hour ride, so I dutifully packed up the Passat and took a bike and a pile of food to Ruthin for the MTB Marathon.


Even the longest route today was ‘only’ 75K, so that would tick off four hours. I made sure it was a hard four hours  – I rode with Matt for a bit, rode with Dave for a bit and due to not being able to drop down into the small chainring, I utterly killed myself on the very first climb in order to stay with some friendly faces. The small chainring would see some action later in the ride but confusingly (to me), I was only able to change gear properly once the bike was well and truly covered in mud and poo.


It was properly covered in mud and poo once I’d failed to unclip and fell sideways into a bog, covering one side of my entire body with mud. You’d pay good money for that at a health spa.

Anyway, the Genius was doing its thing – climbing like a billy goat and descending at speeds that I don’t normally do on mountain bikes while I was concentrating on being efficient, eating properly and generally looking dead cool. It was going well I thought – I knew I was approaching proper racing weight (not easy when you’re 40-odd and you work in an office with a load of serial cake shoppers) and I also knew I’d been putting in the effort for the past few weeks.

Anyway, a very steep and hilly 4 hours and a couple of feed station stops later I finished, ages behind Nick Craig but 14th overall which wasn’t too bad. A quick coffee, a change of jersey and a bit of route advice from a local and I was on my way along the road to Llandegla. I left the car in Ruthin and I reckoned I could ride to ‘Degla, get a couple of laps in and then ride back.

The ride there was a grind up the Nant Y Garth pass into a headwind but it took less than an hour. Café was still open, but cos I’m a focussed individual at the moment I rode past it and straight up the first climb to start a lap of the black route.


I love Llandegla. It gets crowded at weekends and there seems to be a lot that go there that can’t help dropping litter all over the place but the trails are ace and it’s just down the road. Sort of.

After the black I just had time to go round the blue trail, which is waaay more awesome than it sounds. Saw John and Tom in the Exposure Lights van just as I was leaving –  we had a quick chat then I enjoyed a quicker ride back to Ruthin to the car.

Total ride time – 8 hours 10 minutes. Doh!

24 Hour Worlds countdown….

It’s only four weeks until the 24 Hour World champs. That’s flown by, partly because I’ve been super-busy for weeks. Not just at work but outside work too. All good stuff, but knackering if you don’t stay on top of things.

Somehow I managed to stay motivated to train hard after twentyfour12, I only left a week of recovery which at 43 years old takes some doing, so I’m told. Perhaps it’s sometimes best to save your cash for the greengrocers rather than charging headlong into the protein shakes.

I’d planned to push hard in that race, but not so hard that I was looking at a 3 or 4 week recovery and the plan seemed to work. I walked (and didn’t hobble) away with the win anyway.

Thinking about it, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed this sort of motivation for training for years – I remember as recently as this time last year I was thinking about jacking in 24 hour racing and I think that was reflected in my performances in the couple of races that followed – I think deep down, I just couldn’t be arsed.


I can be arsed now though. I’ve been doing as much preparation as possible, sticking to the plan as best I can (sometimes the plan is thrown into chaos and I end up doing hill reps at 3 or 4 in the morning or even training three times in one day but it’s mostly gone ok) and I’ve been thinking about the practical side of getting bikes, people and kit in the right place at the right time. Luckily I seem to be surrounded by amazing people and organisations that want to help with the race, getting me to the race or saving me having to take tons of kit with me on a transatlantic flight.


Whatever happens in Weaverville, California at the beginning of October, I’ll be content that I’ve prepared as best I could. I honestly couldn’t have done any more. I’m not going be relaxed, but I’ll probably enjoy the whole thing a lot more.


If you can stand at the start of any race and truthfully say to yourself “I’ve done everything I could have done”, then you’ll be a much better place than if you’re continually repeating “I wish I’d got off my backside and prepared better”. There’s no panic training this time around.


The last few months would have been even more tricky if it wasn’t for crowd of people looking after me – Stevie at 2 Pure for keeping me stocked up with Honey Stinger nutrition, Dickon at Jungle for sticking me on some serious Santa Cruz machinery, Team JMC for helping me get to the start line and for the all-important Sense Of Belonging, all at Craft UK for dressing me in cycling clothing that has been perfect for the 2015 UK ‘Summer’ (it’s been cold and damp, mostly), Tom and John at Exposure Lights for providing the lighting for those 3am/10pm training rides, Ant at Mount Zoom for providing the super-light bars, bottlecages and other shiny gubbins and finally, Deb and the kids for putting up with me leaving the house all the time to ride my bike (and then falling asleep when I’m in the house).


Bontrager TwentyFour12 2015

What normally happens after a 24 hour race is that I’ll spend a few days moaning about how many aches and pains I’ve got or how horrible the most horrible part of the race was, I’ll eat loads of food in an attempt to replace some of the 20,000 or so calories I’ve burned until I don’t feel quite as hungry anymore and I might go to the pub. I’ll also write a blog, massage my own ego and drone on about how I did this, that or the other, ending with a single line where I’ll say a tagged-onto-the-end ‘thanks’ to all those that helped me achieve whatever it is I achieved.


Well, I achieved another win at TwentyFour12 at the weekend, so that’s good. I didn’t push too hard for three quarters of the race – I made sure I remained in contention and held enough back for a potential push towards the end but always had the World Champs in October at the back of my mind. A 24 hour race is utterly crap as a training ride but I was going to preserve, rather than spend, as much fitness and wellbeing as I could. It was going well until the last 6 hours when the heavens opened and everything got harder, everyone got wet and I started to shiver.

But it got harder for everyone so it didn’t make too much difference. I just did what I do and it turned out well.


I was looked after again by loads of really generous people who give me stuff that makes this sort of thing a bit easier and affordable in return for me ‘giving it my all’ and not being grumpy and/or a dickhead.

The event as a whole was as brilliant as it was last time, so credit must be paid to Martyn and his team of organisers, do-ers, caterers, look’er-after-ers and marshals.

Meanwhile, while I’m being totally self-indulgent and then having people shower me with praise and prizes, Debbie remains as always a relatively unsung hero. I’ve won eight 24 hour solo races now, each one of them (and all the others that I didn’t win) I’ve been supported 100% by my amazing and long-suffering wife.

She knows when the low points are going to happen. She knows from the look on my face how I’m feeling and knows precisely what to say to get me back on my toes. I see other guys in races having to carefully arrange their various food items, spares, clothing and tools so that they can grab at them in the middle of the night more easily. I don’t have to do any of that. Deb knows where everything is and arranges the pit to suit her- mainly to ensure that the act of “shovelling sugary treats into Jason’s gob” takes as little time as possible – so quickly in fact that I don’t really need to stop riding at all.


Even when the weather turns bad, it’s three in the morning and she’s not had any sleep, Deb’s always awake when I arrive after another lap, latest leaderboard information at the ready, bottle and gel in hand, five, six, maybe ten layers of clothing on (and a bobble hat), ready to keep me rolling.

And all this is on top of having two kids to look after. Sometimes a dog as well. Incredible.

Genuinely, I have it easy. All I have to do is pedal and think about nothing else but the race.


So this time, just for once, I’m not going to drone on and on about how amazing my training was or how clever my race strategy was, because I must have one of the greatest pit helpers in the world whose contribution to my successes over the past few years can’t be underestimated.


Salzkammergut Trophy Saturday Social

I knew the Salzkammergut Trophy “Extreme” distance event was going to be tough. With 211 kilometres and about 25,000 feet of climbing it was probably going to be one of the toughest days on an MTB I’ve ever had. In spite of the stats, I had one eye on the fact I’m racing in a 24 hour race in two weeks so I planned to work hard, but not so hard that I buried myself. I wanted to recover in a couple of days rather than a couple of weeks.

get in there, don't get out until tomorrow...

get in there, don’t get out until tomorrow…

The race itself was sandwiched in between a couple of 1000 mile drives in Guy’s van. The first leg will be remembered for the inexplicable delay in a ‘really busy’ but at the same time COMPLETELY EMPTY Channel Tunnel terminal and a subsequent mad dash to Munich to pick Guy up from the airport and then another mad dash through the rest of Germany and across Austria to make it to Bad Goisern to get signed in with less than an hour to spare.


Thirty hours had passed between me leaving my front door and us arriving at the campsite.

I forgot my tent. I’d left it at home. Bugger.


The home of Bad Goisern FC. Nope, I’ve never heard of ’em either. Nice pitch though.

Martin the race organiser made a phone call to his mate who owns a camping shop. When I eventually found the shop the kindly Austrian gent unlocked the door (the shop was shut) and tried to sell me a 400 Euro expedition tent. I thought about the tent that would no doubt provide a means of survival in the worst weather the Alps could throw at you and the comfy, flat football pitch we were camping on and bought a bivvy bag instead. I was glad I’d forgot the tent – the night sky was an incredible sight, I wasn’t cold and I slept like a log.

Good job really. The race starts at 5am so the pre-race faff/panic/poo queue starts at 4am. Lee was lucky to be starting the shorter race at 11am but got up anyway to see us off.

Selfie. Sam, Me, Guy. 5am.

Selfie. Sam, Me, Guy. 5am.

Sam, Guy and me made it to the start line (about 500 metres down the road) with 5 minutes to spare. We were hundreds of riders away from the front of the race but it didn’t matter – we were here to enjoy the ride, have a laugh and enjoy the views.

I’d forgot how congested the first climb and offroad section can be when you’re nowhere near the front. I struggled to stay upright while trackstanding in a crowd of mountain bikers and mountain bikes that was slowly winching itself uphill. Every so often a small gap would appear and I’d ride faster for two or three seconds and overtake someone. This went on for an hour before we reached the first feed station. Cheese, sausage, bread, cake, carbohydrate drink, water, fruit…this wasn’t a UK feed station. There was a chance that we’d gain weight in this race.

cheese, bread, sausage, VPL

cheese, bread, sausage, VPL

After messing about for half an hour fixing a puncture in Guy’s front tyre we set off again and maintained the ‘moderate’ pace.

Another massive gravel downhill. A bit of nadgery, rooty singletrack. Some Germans walking with a pair of English pillocks shouting “Actung! Actung!” at them. Another massive, hour-long climb. More climbing. Another feed station. We stopped at all of the feed stations. I developed an addiction to the Austrian Pepperami-alike sausage.

The 30 degree heat eventually made the feed station sausage cheese turn unto Dairylea.

More climbing.

A tunnel.

Then some more climbing.

Then a long flat bit along the banks of a lake.

Then the steepest climb on tarmac I’ve ever seen. Apparently it’s 43% at its steepest point, so I’ve no idea how anyone laid tarmac on a hill like that and I can’t imagine what sort of vehicle would drive up or down it. Anyway, this climb went on for what seemed like hours and hours.


Guy dropped back at this point and I pressed on – not because I was showing off or anything like that, I just wanted this damn race to be over as quickly as possible. I’d been struggling with the heat all day long and if I’m honest I was getting BORED OF CLIMBING HILLS NOW. After a slightly-contrived last few miles where the course got a bit ‘down the back of the garages’, the damn race ended and I flopped into the finish line paddling pool.

Yes. A finish line paddling pool.

Guy and Sam rolled back in a while later in the middle of a massive downpour of rain.

Next year I’ll hopefully return to the Salzkammergut Trophy. While I don’t regret treating it as a nice, social, day-out-with-my-mates this year, I’ll take a very lightweight bike (instead of a very lovely but not-super-light steel bike) and I’ll have a go at getting ‘round as fast as I can next time.

14 hours is an ok time I think (and I was 1st Brit) but it’d be interesting to see how much faster I could do it if I ignored the scenery, used the feeds sparingly and chatted less.

After a swift steak and chips, we drove back home in the van, which only took 23 hours….