annual pilgrimage

I did my annual ride over to Anglesey yesterday on the road bike. For most of the first 100 miles I had to put up with a fairly brisk headwind as most of the route is quite exposed and straight-as-a-die in an east-west direction. Despite this I rode my quickest-ever century and arrived at the walls of Conwy castle 5 and a quarter hours ride time later (I had 20 minutes in a coffee shop in Rhyl on the way).

Aching a bit after spending long periods of time in the drops to minimise the effect of the wind, I ate all of my remaining food at that point aside from an emergency gel then set off through the centre of Conwy for the climb over Sycnant Pass. 100 miles of relatively flat (but often undulating) roads followed by a steep climb up a rather large hillside? Ideal.

Following the 45mph descent down the other side, I then followed the newly-completed Sustrans route from Llanfairfechan to Bangor which crosses the A55 a few times via some impressive bridges (which were incomplete the last time I did this ride) then continues along a minor and very narrow and twisty road to the Menai Straits. The minor road has recently been resurfaced along its entire length –  last year this was a gravelly farm track completely unsuitable to Michelin 23’s. Sustrans have done a great job of this route and it’s obvious that it’s cost a lot of money.

The route is now longer too – I arrived 127 miles later – 10 or so miles longer than last year (unless my computer is knackered). More big rides planned for the remainder of this week, then a bit of an ‘experimental short taper’ next week then blow me down, another 24 hour race…..

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scared of missing out

I’ve just entered my 4th 24 hour solo race of 2010. I’d never intended to race at Sleepless in the Saddle this year, despite my podium finish last time, but in light of the recent sponsorship activity (I’ve got loads of new stuff to try out in other words) and the fact that the rest of Team JMC Ragley (Twinklydave and our awesome Man With The Spanners, Wayne) are going, it’d be rude not to.

It’s in 2 weeks time so not much time to prepare but conversely not much time to get worried about it either. I’ll see how it goes and decide early in the race if I’m going to treat it as a training exercise for the Kielder 100 or whether to put the hammer down and try to get a decent result.

Before that me and Dave are attempting the Trans Cambrian trail again. Hopefully this time we’ll go the right way and as an added bonus motivating factor, there is a record to try and beat. We’d have done just that last time if we hadn’t ended up in Aberystwyth :-/

I’d better get some really long rides in and quick…

Lovely people – a sponsorship update

In the last few weeks I’ve been busy with (amongst a lot of other things) talking to new sponsors for the rest of this and hopefully next year. Dave’s been doing the same and we’ve both had varying degrees of success.

Ragley look after me exceptionally well and I’m racing on some ace machinery that not only keep me reasonably competitive but also help me to enjoy ‘just riding bikes’. There are loads of new products emerging from them in the next few months so I’ll be providing updates as and when new bits appear on the bike. I’ve also been riding with Squirt Lube for a while now too – it’s great to do a 24 hour race or stupidly-long training ride and not have to reapply chain lube.

The observant readers out there will have no doubt noticed some other logos that have appeared over there on the left <–

First off, JMC IT are kindly making a valuable contribution to my racing costs and providing the use of a great big van with lots of seats.  One of the hardest parts of 24 hour racing (aside from racing for 24 hours, obviously) is actually getting everything and everyone who’s helping out to and from races and the high cost of entering them, so this kind of support is absolutely fantastic. It will keep me racing, in other words.

I’m now also being supported by 2Pure who will be keeping the engine running by supplying me with Clif bars, Shot Bloks, recovery products and energy drinks as well as 2 different varieties of Chamois Butt’r – Euro-style tingly and non-tingly varieties that is. I’ve already decided which is my favourite 😉

The chamois cream is a new one for me, I’ve been using ‘another brand’ for some years now so I will report back on the state of my butt in due course. (I’ve actually got rather a lot of Chamois Butt’r so if you want a sample please just ask).

I’ve been using Clif energy products in races and in training for a while now. The energy bars are the bars that taste most like ‘normal’ food in my opinion (like cakes in fact) and I’ve avoided sickness, the dreaded bonk and cramp by using Clif Shot carb/electrolyte drink at all my 24 hour races so far this year. I also gave a couple of bottles to Phil when he cramped up 6 hours into the Grizedale 12 hour race and he went on to finish 4th…so he’s also a convert too.

We’ve now formalised ‘Team JMC /Ragley’ (we weren’t allowed to have ‘Team Awesome’) –  all of the sponsors I’ve mentioned are supporting us both now so that we can carry on racing lots, continue the tradition of The Daft Ride and hopefully maintain the form we’ve both been enjoying for some time.

Wait until you see the gorgeous new jerseys 😉

Follow Team JMC / Ragley on Twitter

Hit the North 2 and the road to Damascus

Hit the North 2 was a big success. Despite having less than half the number of people taking part that we should have had, despite the previous 4 months leaving us feeling that this was the last one that we’d do, it turned out to be bloody fantastic. Again. Except this time it was even better….

After the race had finished and everything had been put away, I wrote the following blog post with my usual organiser’s perspective of the event but with an added ‘this is the end’ aspect. We’d already announced publicly that the show was over anyway and surprisingly nobody has really tried to persuade us to carry on (is that a good thing or not? I dunno). Anyway, the post in full;

People say that once something stops being fun, it’s time to quit. Mostly, planning Hit the North 2 wasn’t fun. It was a few months of anxiety and extra plugging because of low entry numbers on top of the regular hard work involved with organising a reasonably large event.

Despite our claims that we do things ‘for a laugh’ and ‘we make this up as we go along’, in reality Andrew and I both want to do things properly so that everyone who pays to take part get great value for money, our sponsors are happy to be associated with a quality event and the numerous people that help us out for nothing (or next to nothing) aren’t left with a load of hassle, something broken that we borrowed or a mess somewhere on their land.

The amount of work had increased anyway (due to there being now two of us doing this rather than three) plus both our families are not getting any smaller. The time when I wasn’t training (which takes a significant amount of time, obviously), I was either at work or I was sending emails, bombarding Internet forums with pleas for more entries, leading course preview rides, writing risk assessments or cutting back 6 miles worth of prickly weeds on someone else’s land.

It just wasn’t fun anymore. If anything it had become a pain in the arse.

After we’d set everything up on Friday, watched as Mark 1 and Mark 2 organised the army of marshals, got excited as the early arrivals set up their tents and caravans, chatted with seldom-seen friends we talk to face-to-face only when we host a race and we made sure caterers had everything they needed to crack on, we got into character ready for the big start….

After sounding the siren on the PA for a few seconds, eventually the amassed racers heard it (it sounded loud to me, with my ear almost touching the speaker) and off they went for the Le Mans-style run with a difference. Many races have a run at the start to spread out the field so that a huge queue at the first singletrack section is avoided. Normally it’s quite short and tame…so we decided that ours would be quite long and very not-tame. Sending the run route down a muddy bank, through a stream, up a slippery steep bank, along a narrow track then up a flight of concrete steps wasn’t held dear in the hearts of many people judging by the looks on their faces but it served its purpose. There was a good 10 minutes separating the first riders back to the start finish and the ones at the back 😉 Like I said, we do things properly. With a great big hammer.

The race went on for the next 8 hours and apart from everyone loving the course, the laid-back vibe and the awesome music being played by Michael at his marshal point at the top of the horrible unrideable climb, not a great deal happened. Nothing ‘bad’ anyway. The medical team had a barbecue and fannied around on their quad bike because they were bored, some people raced very fast, some cyclocross riders showed how to shoulder a bike and skip up a hill, some people rode quite slowly but ‘purposefully’. The caterers dressed as pirates and served amazing food as usual, the beer tent served pints of real ale whilst the DJ played into the small hours (which technically could have been viewed by the police as an illegal rave but with 80’s music and bitter rather than techno, Es and whizz).

It was as good as ever. If anything, it was the best HTN ever.

The good stuff:

Donating cash to charity. This could sound like a cliché and a bit cheesy, but it’s important. For me, it’s the most important thing. Giving away our profit to people and organisations that need it more than we do MAKES THE HASSLE WORTH IT. We’ve not got a lot of profit this time to give away, but someone local will be better off as a result that’s for certain.

People entering and quite literally LOVING the event. People who race a lot love it. People who never normally race love it and only ever enter HTN.

People who travel hundreds of miles to be here.

Meeting and becoming friends with some truly ace people.

Getting permission to do all this from the nice people who own or manage the land that we use – it’s easier than you might think as long as you ask nicely.

Watching other people in addition to us doing big things and giving up huge amounts of their own time for not much more than a cup of tea and a warm handshake to make it happen.

Our brilliant sponsors – JMC IT, Ragley Bikes, Hotlines, Cloversoul, Cooksons Cycles and all the sponsors that have helped us in the past with paying for stuff for us or giving us stuff to give to people who finish on the podium.

Thanks for your support. We love you all.

Results

Some pics

some more pics

People saying nice things

Blog posts from:

Twinklydave

Jon

One Black Dot

Here Come The Belgians

Before I published the text above on this blog I went for a ride. Nothing spectacular about that, just one of regular training routes over towards Macclesfield. It was raining and I was thinking hard about what I’d written and the nagging feeling that deep down I just didn’t believe my own drivel. We’d been speaking to a couple of guys about the future of Hit the North and they were very interested in taking it on – however the thing is, I didn’t really want that to happen at all, despite appearances to the contrary.

I know the lads we had been talking to and I’ve no doubt at all that they’d do a grand job (perhaps even a better job!), but unlike Andrew I’m not ready to walk away from this just yet. I feel bad that I may have messed people around but everyone will get over that I’m sure.

I stopped at the side of the road and hid from the rain in a bus shelter. I texted Andrew to tell him that I was going to carry on and I immediately felt an immense sense of relief. It was a proper Road To Damascus moment. Hit the North was going to carry on as normal and the only thing that would make it die would be when nobody wanted to do it anymore. Last weekend had taught me that plenty of people still want to do it…so that’s good enough for me.

It’s going to be hard on my own, but I won’t’ really be on my own at all –  I’m sure that at least some of the offers of help that were there last weekend will still be there in the months to come. It’ll be hard but at the same time exciting, unpredictable and awesome – a bit like solo 24 hour racing…and I’m good at that.

See you at Hit the North – The Resurrection (or something) – February 2011….