Start of a new chapter

Well, that was difficult. We’ve finally moved house. Normally moving house is hard but this move was insane really.

I suppose when you have a situation that gradually becomes more and more of a headache, by the time the really hard bits kick in you’re far too committed to pull the plug so you keep going.

Cutting a very long, stressful story short, we eventually arrived in Scotland, having sold out house in Manchester so lived in a caravan while the rain POURED down, causing us to have to carry the kids across the mud so they didn’t get their new school uniforms dirty. We didn’t have much with us and we had to share the caravan with our 2 cats and the dog.

It was pretty cramped and being honest, Debbie and I thought we’d made a massive mistake.

The England-based removals people weren’t helping (we had to get another firm involved for part of the job – they were awesome). Nor were some of the English solicitors. The old couple we bought the house from certainly didn’t make the final few days before moving in that easy either.

We moved in, threw all our boxes of stuff willy-nilly into the building and immediately flew to Tenerife for a week to recover (once we’d bought new flights following the news that Monarch had collapsed).

Not Scotland

We had a minor scare when we arrived there too, when the apartment we were staying in didn’t seem to exist…

Anyway, we had a great holiday and returned to our new house. We’re here. Newton Stewart, a long way from Manchester, is our home now. As the weeks have passed, it’s become obvious that nothing that we’ve done in the past year to move here was a mistake.

The people here are friendly and welcoming. The girls are doing things at (or rather outside) school that they seldom had the chance to do in Manchester. There’s fresh air and the views up here are pretty spectacular in every direction. The house needs a bit of work but it suits us perfectly and it’ll scrub up well.

And the cycling and the running? Amazing. The best bit is that I’m yet to discover most of it.

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10 at Kirroughtree

I thought that 10 hours of laps around a rocky trail centre would be brilliant fun on a long-travel, steel hardtail with downhill tyres. Like I’d said in my previous post, I’d entered the 10@Kirroughtree race several weeks ago when I assumed that I’d be a resident of these parts by now but we’re still in Manchester – what should have been a “race from the front door” job was now a big weekend away.

Luckily our friends Lisa and Ritchie helped us out massively by providing us with a brilliant cottage to stay in for the weekend. Want somewhere nice and quiet to stay in the Scottish Borders? Give them a shout.

The race was fun up to a point. The first couple of laps were pretty good and I wasn’t worrying about getting a puncture. The first couple of hours of the race went something like, 11th place, 6th place, 4th place….but then things went a bit hazy. A combination of heavy bike, over-enthusiasm, a relatively untrained physical state and simply not eating enough sent me right to the edge of a full-on bonk and I slowed right down.

Crashed a couple of times while finding it hard to focus.

Got back to the pit area and consumed sweets and various pastry products.

Had a cup of tea and a sit down while Lisa continued to offer me food (while looking after the food and water needs of Ritchie).

Reminded myself that I was doing this for the laugh.

Glanced at my heavy lump of big-forked madness bike.

Drank more tea.

Decided I would ride more laps.

Rode pretty slowly, but got my head firmly into ‘get my money’s worth’ mode.

No idea where I finished but I was nearer the back than the front. It didn’t matter though.

 

Thanks again to Lisa and Ritchie for the digs, thanks to Deb and Lisa for feeding me and cheers to everyone who’s supported me this year. It’s been a weird one!

Now then – time to get packing our earthly possessions into boxes….

 

Tour De Mon and the 10@Kirroughtree not-bothered-what-the-weather-does weatherwatch

I’ve spent a lot of time on the Isle of Anglesey in the past 40-something years. When I was a child I’d more or less be there permanently through the school holidays and most weekends during term time. I thought I was familiar with all of it, despite being able to pronounce a very small percentage of the place names properly.

When I entered the Tour De Mon sportive, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get much out of it. Apart from it being a good excuse to pay my parents a visit I assumed that there wouldn’t be many surprises throughout the whole ride. I’m glad I did enter though, the route contained plenty of unfamiliar lanes and ‘grass up the middle’ stuff to open my eyes to parts of the island I’d never been to or had long-since forgotten.

one of many wheel-sucking moments

It wasn’t easy either – 104 miles (plus a 30 mile ride to the start – rarrr) and over 2500 metres of climbing on up-down-up-down-up-down roads meant that you knew you’d had a good day out. There was even an actual sort-of race for a mile along the Mona airfield, which took some recovering from…

Next weekend it’s the 10@Kirroughtree race, about 3 miles from our new house in Newton Stewart. When I entered the event months ago I wrongly assumed that I’d be a resident of Newton Stewart by the time the race starts but obviously that isn’t the case, so we’re driving up from Manchester instead.

I’ve not done a great deal of training in the past few weeks either due to ‘other stuff’ but it’ll be a fun day out and to make sure it is fun, I think I’ll take a Big Bike with a Big Fork and Big Tyres and have 10 hours of fun in baggy shorts.

Capture

Another chance to see some more of the trails up there and to catch up with friends north of the border.

Heading north

From here….

Soon the Miles family will be moving away from Manchester to side-step the organised chaos of the city to live in Dumfries and Galloway, over 200 miles away in Southern Scotland. I’m sure readers in the USA would drive 200 miles to buy a pint of milk, but in the UK it’s a long way.

…to here.

It’ll be a big change for us, moving to a town of 5000 people from a town of 500,000 but we’re good and ready after spending most of this year planning and trying to negotiate the incompatibilities between the English and Scottish conveyancing systems. We’ll be living in the caravan for a short time to work-around one of the main legal issues, but it’ll all work out fine.

It also means that apart from the occasional cyclocross race on the odd weekend that I’m not unpacking boxes and decorating, 2017 is pretty much over as far as racing bikes is concerned. With the current pressures of work and a life-altering house move, there just isn’t the time right now, nor is there an appetite for the added stress and hassle.

I’ve got plans for a Big Scottish Ride to keep the weight off and the fitness up before the end of the year and for the last few months of 2017 I’ll be training for the Strathpuffer 24  before I get stuck into things again next year, but things will start to look different from now on. Stay tuned!

Mountain Mayhem 2017

In spite of the temptation to race solo at the last-ever Mountain Mayhem, I decided at the start of the year that I’d have other fish to fry this year that I want to be fresh for. When Jamie Willetts asked me to race with him in a pair, it sounded ideal.

Less than ideal was my arrival time. I got to the race nearly 6 hours after it had started because of various domestic issues that occur when you sell your house. Jamie didn’t seem to mind, but by the time I’d arrived he’d already ridden for 6 hours and was slowly baking in the 30+ degree heat.

It was really, really, really hot.

Keen to let the lad have a well-earned rest I got changed, filled my water bottle and set about riding a few laps. “Are we taking it seriously, Jase?” Jamie asked. “I’ve just arrived 6 hours late”. No, in other words. Let’s just enjoy it and try not to get fried.

The course was fast and arguably the best one yet at Gatcombe Park. Mountain biking in dry, dusty conditions is such a novelty for UK riders that any old crap would be enjoyable, but this was genuinely pretty good.

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Cutting straight to the entertaining stuff though, my front light rattled loose and tumbled down a steep slope at the side of the course at about 11pm. Luckily it remained lit to it was easy to find…down and down I climbed, legs getting scratched on prickly shrubs. Eventually I retrieved the light and climbed back up – my helmet bumping into a low branch and sending my helmet light tumbling down the hill. Down and down I climbed, legs getting scratched on prickly shrubs while the air was turned blue by my potty mouth.

You couldn’t make it up.

Jamie’s turn again. He arrived back after one lap after a crash that ended with his sternum meeting his handlebar stem at high speed.

No intention of riding 12 hours solo in the wrong category, I went to bed for a bit.

The glue on my grips had melted by the time I got back on my bike in the morning and as the temperature continued to rise I took more tea breaks in between laps. It was going well.

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Jamie brings it home

Jamie put in one more lap before the end of the race and that was that. 20 years of Mountain Mayhem, all finished.

The Big Daddy of UK 24 hour races, I, like thousands of others, have had fond memories of this race and it will be sadly missed.