Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Wee Man rides 24 hours at Strathpuffer.

Strathpuffer is billed as one of the hardest mountain bike races in the world. Winter, Scotland, 17 hours of darkness. So what better introduction to the world of endurance mountain biking for a boy who is 9 years old?

I've done the race before solo, and to be honest, I had absolutely no intention of taking place in it ever again. It's a hard race for a grown up. I'd exaggerated how awful it would be, but Tom would not be dissuaded. Every parent gets pestered by their kids, and Tom pestered me to get him a solo entry for Strathpuffer.
We arrived as darkness fell on Friday night. There was snow on the ground, and it was snowing. Tom was disappointed that the snow didn't make good snowballs, it was too cold. Some hardy souls were camping, not us though we were staying in a nice warm travelodge.

Saturday, we were up early.  There was no time for apprehension though, we had to get everything ready. In fact we only just made the start line in time.

A short run to our bikes, and we were off up the long climb.

The encouragement from the spectators and fellow riders was brilliant. "GO Wee Man"

Our plan was to ride at a steady pace, and not to crash. The sun was out, the course was ace, we were having fun.

Less than 6 hours in, and it was dark. No problems there though, we had our awesome Exposure lights to light our way.

All went well until just after midnight. Then on one of the descents my rear tyre blew off the rim. This coincided with Tom getting a pinch flat. It was dark, it was cold, and it was snowing. No worries though my tools and tubes were easy to access in my Alpkit Possum frame bag. I fixed Tom's flat quickly. My tyre though, even with the help of Markus who stopped to help would not stay on the rim. So my only option was to walk/run the 1.5 miles back to our pits. Tom waited for me until the last descent, then nipped ahead to get a tyre and tube ready for me.

I put the new tyre and tube on, we were good to go. Debbie who was pitting for us, sensibly enquired as to when we might stop for a rest. One more lap I said.

Two thirds of the way up the climb, Tom wanted a rest, he was tired. When the temperature is sub zero, standing about does not aid recovery. I remembered though some lads who were camped a little further up the hill had said if we needed anything, to call in. We rode on.

The lads from Hawick welcomed us in to their tent. I say tent, but think marquee. Proper settees, and a woodburner that was near 6 feet tall. Tom sat down ate a ham sandwich, and was soon fast asleep. That's not a dummy on his wrist, it's his dibber.

Ideally, we would have stopped there for a while. I knew though if we stayed there too long, that Debbie, and maybe the race organisers would be concerned as to our whereabouts. An hours sleep, a cup of strong coffee, and we were back on our bikes.

We did one more night lap, and then Tom had a few hours sleep in front of the gas heater in the event HQ marquee.

As dawn was breaking we set off for our last lap. I was faffing and told Tom to head off up the climb. It took me most of the 2.5 miles to catch him up. That sleep had obviously done him good.

We had to stop for a picture with the Strathpuffer celebrity Bill on our way back.

Once back the BBC Adventure Show whisked Tom off for an interview, then it was time for sausage butties and tea.

The stats for Tom's ride 10 laps, 64.9 miles, 8000 feet of climbing. 61st out of 92 solo riders.

Smiles, lots. Tears, none.

Tom won the Doug Stewart memorial award for youth performance which is awarded to the best under 19 rider. The applause as he stood on the podium was amazing. I may have had a tear in my eye.

Thanks to Debbie for looking after us in the pits, Team JMC, Exposure Lights and Alpkit for their support.

A massive thanks to the organisers of the Strathpuffer race for putting on such an amazing event, and letting my son take part.

See you next year.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

New Lights and Bag for Strathpuffer.

Tom and I have recovered from the Xmas lurgy. Our bags are packed, and the bikes are ready for Strathpuffer. We are both really looking forward to it.

We have been fortunate to gain some sponsorship for this year.

Alpkit have sent us an Alpkit Possum frame bag which arrived today. I'll use this at the weekend to carry our spare tubes, pump etc, and some jelly babies, so there is no need to ride with a rucksack.

We have also been given some lights by Exposure. The Toro Mk6 along with a piggyback battery will provide all the light we need for the 17 hours of darkness.

If you want to follow our progress live tracking can be found here. I think Tom's number is going to be 75. If that isn't the case look for Tom S.... in the solo category.

Monday, December 29, 2014

#Festive500 abandoned.

I am writing this with two days left of the 2015 Rapha #festive500. For us though the challenge is over.

Before the challenge started we both had a cold. I'd hoped we'd shake it off, but if anything for both if us the cold was getting worse.

I was concerned that with weakened immune systems we might pick up something else, so made the decision that our time would be better spent regaining our good health than riding our bikes.

We're still coughing and spluttering, but I'm hopeful we'll be back on our bikes soon.

Best wishes for 2015 from us both.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Rapha #Festive500 Day 2.

Unlike previous years, we had a day off on Xmas day. This was partly because we had family stuff to do, but mainly because we both have an awful cold. If there was a seasonal competiton for coughing, sneezing and generally feeling weak, we would be up there.

Nevertheless, we nipped out today and did a few miles.

Tom spotted a road sign with his name on it.

We've done 24% now.

Tomorrow sun and energy please!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Rapha #Festive500 Day (night) 1.

This is the third year Tom and I have decided to take up the challenge of riding 500 Kms between the 24th and the 31st of December.

We like hearing other peoples stories from the #festive500, and one in particular caught Tom's eye, and indeed took the top spot in last years Rapha competition.

The story of four riders who set out to do the 500 Kms all in one ride!

Tom says "Can we do that?" to which I replied "No!" The only reason I said no, was that he can't yet ride fast enough to do the 500 Kms without missing more than one nights sleep.

Undeterred, (as usual) Tom says, "Well, can we start at midnight and see how far we can ride?" To which I reply "Yes". I thought, that if we did a good few miles, then we could have a day off on Xmas Day, which would mean unlike last year we wouldn't be late for Xmas dinner.

I made a plan, similar to when I did a few hill reps this summer. We would park the car up which contained food, drink and warm clothes. Ride, refuel, repeat.

We parked at Parsley Hay, which is at the junction of the High Peak, and the Tissington trails. After a bit of faffing, we left around 12:20 am.

It was raining, windy, cold, and unsurprisingly dark.

We headed first down the High Peak trail. Tom was loving it.

 At the first incline, we turned round and reversed our route to the car. Car heater on, it was time for tea and some hot food.

 Refuelled, we headed out again. The rain had stopped now, and we were treated to a sky full of stars.

Time passed quickly, and the early signs of dawn came.

By the time we made it back to Parsley Hay the sun was nearly up.

Another few miles, and we were done, just as the sun was rising in the distance.

A bit thanks to our mate James who lent us his Exposure Lights for the night.

Monday, December 22, 2014

A #microadventure to a Secret Place.

Sleeping out with no tent, no bivvy bag on the winter solstice, that was the plan.

We had discovered a place, a place that hundreds of people will walk within a few metres of every week, yet few know of.

A #microadventure to a Secret Place.

We had packed our stuff much earlier in the day, as we had a dinner date that night at Grandma and Grandpa's. After our supper we walked home. It was windy though not too cold. I was hopeful we might get a good nights sleep.

Once home, we loaded up our bikes, said good night to the girls, and headed out again into the darkness. It was a bit too early for bed, so we stopped for a drink on our way.

After a couple of drinks, it was time to head up the hill and find our accomodation. Instead of our usual approach from above, I thought it might be easier with loaded bikes to head in from below.  I said earlier this was a secret place. It's location from below in the darkness for a little while, was proving to be just that.

Eventually we found the entrance, and it didn't take long to get our sleeping stuff out and get into our sleeping bags. We drank the flask of tea my wife had packed.

The roof over our heads.

Tea drunk, we bedded down for the night.

We were soon asleep, and it wasn't until around 7:30 that we woke.

Tom was up first, and made us some coffee.

Next it was time for breakfast. There are many things I would choose to have for breakfast, but Tom had decided we would have Spaghetti Bolognese!

Breakfast eaten, yes I'm now a convert to Spag Bol as a good start to the day, we packed our stuff and headed out in the first light of the day.

Tom loved our #microadventure, though he says I better bring some milk for his coffee next time.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014 Minipips gets a bit Faster

This year I've seen Tom's cycling move on to another level. He's probably ridden less miles than last year, but his bike handling, stamina, and road craft have moved on so much, that I no longer plan a ride having to make allowances for any inability. Though we rarely worry about going fast, he's getting faster too.

I could say it's because he's naturally gifted, but that wouldn't be true. He has got to where he is by putting in the miles (3000 in the last two years). He's been too hot, cold, wet, fallen off his bike and been bitten by a dog among other hardships. He loves riding his bike, but as every cyclist knows, it isn't always easy.

One particular ride this year, made me realise how much he has improved.

Our local running club organises a bike vs runner handicap race. Two years ago Tom rode this race, and in spite of setting off well before everyone, he came second from last.

Last year we gave it a miss, but this year we entered again.

Dave who organises it eyed Tom up and down, and decided that though he could set off  before the other cyclists, he would have to leave behind all but the elite runners.

The first section of the race was flat, and Tom reeled in many of the runners as he touched 20mph. What comes next though is a climb of 1 1/2 miles with 800 feet of climbing over loose, then rutted and sometimes boggy ground. He didn't get passed by all the runners, but there weren't many still behind. Still no sign of the other cyclists though.

From the high point there's a technical descent, which then becomes a fast gravel track. He was picking up the runners one by one.

From the road crossing there is a slight climb. I'd told him, if he made the top of it, before any other of the cyclists, he on his mountain bike would have the upper hand against those (training for the 3 Peaks) on their cyclocross bikes on the final descent.

He rode hard to the last col. We passed more runners, but no sign of any cyclists.

He flew down the loose rocky descent. He took a quicker line than me through one section whilst passing a runner I had to work hard to get back on his wheel. We passed lots of runners.

Now back on the outskirts of the village, the surface turned to tarmac, and it was just a matter of riding hard to the finish.

At the finish there were two runners, and Nick Craig the first cyclist who had taken a slightly different line to the finish. So, out of 24 entrants, Tom finished 4th.

Tom was told by the organiser that next time, he wouldn't get away with pretending he was a kid!

Anyhow, 2014 isn't quite done yet. For the third year we'll be doing the Rapha #festive500. Minipips has an ambitious plan for that.

Once that is done, we'll have some exciting news about rides and sponsors for 2015!