Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Don't forget your overshoes

Just back from a 75miler. I didn't honestly realise it was going to be so cold, so I set off without overshoes. About 15miles in the ice blocks that resembled my feet were begining to bug me. A quick call home to send out the "team" car (aka my dad in his van) resulted in him arriving with no overshoes as he couldn't find them, and him nearly running out of fuel by the time he reached me as he didn't think I would have made it so far. So that meant I had to hand over my coffee shop cash so he could get fuel. Nice one! Now I was not only sufferring from ice block feet but white van man had stolen my cash. Argh! Why is it some days just go like that?

Anyhow, it turned out to be a pretty good ride all the same. I had actually planned on doing 100 but without money to buy food I didn't want to chance it. I'm now sitting pretty in my slippers, scarf, wooly jumper and jogging bottoms, proud to have suffered the distance with cold feet. Tommorow, I will be more prepared!

Friday, 26 December 2008

New Team and Merry Christmas!

Afternoon readers.

Hope everyone has had a good christmas. Apart from spending the first half of my holidays fitting my mothers new kitchen, i've had a nice relaxing time at home with my mum, dad, sister (who is home from glasgow) and friends. Yesterday I did a nice easy 30miler before the Xmas meal to work up an appetite. I can safely say that i've now seen all the turkey and chocolate I want to see in a while!

The thing I enjoy about this time of year is that it marks the time for when the real focus for the race season begins. Having already filled my alcohol quota with celebrations with friends over the christmas period, i've decided to use the remaining 10 days of my holiday to lay down some high volume training miles. The weather outlook is good so I might venture across the water for a couple of days and do some exploring. Not what some people would consider the best way to spend new year, but for me, being on the bike is what I enjoy the most, so that's exactly what i'm going to do :-) At the moment, i'm probably in the best form I ever have been for this time of year, and i'm feeling highly motivated so things are looking good.

For the next bit of good news, I've also picked up a sponsor from Sandy Wallace Cycles who will be supporting me for the upcoming season. He already has the likes of Hamish Creber on the Team so it will be great to be riding and racing with other top cyclists. Thanks to the support given by Sandy, for 2009, I will be riding an Orbea Alma (same as Olympic Champion Julien Absalon). It should be in my hands in the next couple of weeks so i'm very much looking forward to recieving that. I'm building it custom spec as i'm a fussy blighter with my bike setup, but it will look something along the lines of the pic below. I will keep you posted on the full spec, and the build should come in around 19.5lbs by my calculations which saves 1lbs on my trusty GT Zaskar build, while gaining a heck of a lot of stiffness. Heck, if it is good enough for Absalon, it will sure be good enough for me!

So thats about it for the moment. I hope everyone has a great new year if I don't post again before then. Slainte!!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Nice winters day

Or at least it was until it started raining. Myself and my friend Roddy set off this morning for a 50-60 miler out towards Uig. With the roads all frosty, and little wind, we both were feeling the chill to start but soon warmed up. On the way back the heavens opened unfortunately, and we both ended up soaked to the bone. Roddy peeled off at about mile 52 to make a break for home, and I continued to turn the clock round until the 60mile point. Great ride (well, at least I thought so)!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Gently Does it...

It's been that long since i've had any sort of injury that i've forgotten how fustrating it can be. Got on the bike last weekend for a 50mile run and the pain in my knee kicked in again after 12 miles. I decided to turn back and let the wind take me home. After some thought, I decided a few days of layoff would be the best thing for recovery. I did a bit of walking which I always find helps balance the muscle groups out, and thankfully things are now feeling much better. This week I started out with some light 1 hour sessions on the turbo, with the view that i'd stop if I felt any pain. Plenty of stretching as pescribed by the physio was the key I think. It seems to have cleared up rather nicely now, and I managed to put in some 10min Sweet Spot efforts last night on the turbo, with no problems at all.

Today i'm heading for a walk before lunch, then an easy spin on the Mountain Bike in the afternoon. That is if the weather clears - it's sleeting heavy and 1 degree here with black, moody skies.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Did the Hundred!

Ok, a we while ago I mentioned I was following a 6 week plan to train for 100 pushups. I've incorporated the plan into my own core-strength workout which I do twice per week. I'm glad to say that as of tonight, I just did the final test and hit 100 pushups. I wasn't feeling too energetic to be honest but decided to give it a go anyway. I started out pretty steady, trying to focus on breathing as I always seem to hold my breath when doing them for some reason. I hit 60 pretty easy then started to feel a bit of a burn. At 75 things were starting to get a bit tough, so I stopped at 80 for a few seconds and regained composure with my arms locked. Managed up to 98 after that, the last two were damn tough, but I did it! Whey!

Enjoyed it so much that I think I will do a "100 test" monthly, and try to keep up the pushup form by maintaining the last couple of weeks of the program. In terms of bike performance, I think the program has futher increased my core strength to the point that I could sit in the drops on my road bike at any intensity for as long as I like. A year ago I'd get a sore back after 5mins.

Pushups Rock!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Winter Niggles and Power Training

Well that's me coming to the end of my first 3 week block of training. Next week i'm keeping things easy. Got in some fair quality for this time of year, and doing some different stuff in the gym and that has been fun. It's great to be back in shape. I think i'll be killing the upper body stuff in the gym and reducing to light weights from now though, I seem to be packing on muscle up top which is never a good thing for a climber like myself :D

However, along the way I appear to have picked up a little knee injury. My physio (thanks Pete) tells me it's from the Fell running down hill. Woops. The medial ligament on my left knee is inflamed due to the hammering it's had from running down hills, and is rubbing on my knee bone causing some discomfort. I've been told rest and ice until things return to normal. Lucky I have an easy week coming up! On the bike it's pretty uncomfortable, so i'm going to just lay up and do some walking/jogging/swimming and core work next week. You can see the inner Medial Collateral Ligament below. Pesky blighter!

On the plus side, i've got myself a new Turbo trainer with wattage readout. For those of you that don't know, a Turbo is something I mount the bike to and train indoors on those crap winter nights. It's a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine, with power computer and i'm led to believe from reviews and the like the power readout is fairly accurate as it has been Powertap calibrated. It's certainly the best "feeling" turbo trainer i've ridden. Having the numbers in front of you really does give you something to focus on. After doing some 20min "Sweet Spot" intervals the other night (which is where you train just below or at your threshold power), i'm knocking out 350Watts over 20mins. Ok, so that hurt quite a bit, but it's quite a pleasing figure. That means at 145lbs i'm sitting at a healthy 5.3w/kg. Kind of figures for an Elite class rider. If I could increase this to 400W over the winter (not likely but it's an aim), i'm good for 6w/kg which puts me at a pretty darn high level - enough to dice with Pro riders. Something to aim for in the long term at least. Check out my "green" machine... ;-)

Anyhow. Time to lay up the knee and chill out for the weekend. That will be the end of fell running for the time being unfortunately. It was fun, but I can't afford to do something that's going to jeapordise my bike training.


Monday, 10 November 2008

One Hundred Pushups

I've always been a fan of pushups as a great core and strength workout and i've always felt they work in really well with cycling and help hone your form. However, i've only ever been able to do around the 50 mark, until now that is!

http://hundredpushups.com/index.html has this cool 6 week training plan which is low intensive (and free bar a few mins of your time a week) to help you reach 100 pushups. Fits in great along side my other training - and I usually do each scheduled workout at lunchtime before eating so don't really notice the added time. I'm on week 5 at the moment so not long to go! It really is quite suprising how you can improve by following the plan. Let's hope I can reach the 100!

Check it out!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Back in the Saddle!

Well this week is officially the start of my winter training. I can't tell you how good it feels to be back out on the bike - especially with the current crisp winter weather we have right now, clear skies and hardly a breath of wind. Whacked out 30 miles tonight to get the legs turning and I must say, i'm feeling great. Definately starting this winter with great form - so hopefully this is a sign that 2009 will be another good year for me.

I'm mixing things up a bit more this year - doing a bit of cross training which includes running and swimming, and also gym work on upper, lower body and core. Quite enjoying the running as well, it's great to balance things out, and i've even been doing a bit of Hill/Fell type stuff which is fun! I must say though, it is embarrassing how bad a swimmer I am, but I enjoy it all the same which is the main thing, and it's nice to do a few lengths to cool down after a session in the gym.

As the months progress, my idea is to shift my focus further towards "on the bike" time. I think this is the key to finishing a year of racing mentally and physically strong, as I think last year too much focus on the bike from November all the way through to September resulted in me feeling a bit "fried" in my last couple of races. One thing is for sure - running and swimming sure make you realise how good cycling is ;-)

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Ullapool Mor 130mile Sportive

Hey people!

Been quite a while since my last post, mainly because I just wanted to take a break away from all things cycling, as I tend to do at the end of my racing season. I find it is good for both a mental and physical break to take some time off the bike. Currently, I've just been chilling out with some mates, doing a bit of cross training (running/hill walking) and weights to break out of the "cycle" as it were ;-) I'll be getting back into my routine at the beginning of November, so already looking forward and planning for that.

As promised, here is the wee write up on the Ullapool Sportive event by the guys at Hands on Events which I did a few weeks ago. Really enjoyed this - despite the awful weather of wind and heavy rain, it was a real nice wind down to the season. I've stolen a pic from someone else's site (hope they don't mind!!) so here is me in all my low-intensity glory en-route!

Myself and fellow Hebridean CC rider, Roddy Murray left our B+B and rolled up at 7am to the Sign in Station at Ullapool Village Hall. I also managed to get myself interviewed by the BBC so you might yet see me on the BBC adventure show next screening! (Blatant plug)

We rolled off the start together at around 7.30am, with daylight just approaching. Initially, the roads were dry, but that didn't last for long, as once the rain hit, it didn't stop until I rolled over the finish 130miles later! Given 12000ft of climbing, I decided to pace this one out on my own, so rolled away from Roddy and found a nice rhythm. At around the 20mile point, a bunch of around 20 riders caught me so I jumped onto the back and decided to see how things would go. Up one of the first major climbs, and over the top, the lads at the front were setting a fair tempo. It wasn't exactly Lactate Threshold but pretty firm given the distance! I decided to follow anyway and see how things would pan out. To my surprise, I looked around at about the 50 mile point and realised I was one of only 4 riders left at the front! Everyone must have been dropped on the big climb.

After that, I decided i'd had enough of "racing" for the year and wanted to fully enjoy the event so dropped back and settled into my own pace again. After a few miles, I could see I was gaining slowly on another rider up front. "Ideal" I thought, someone to pace with. I caught the other rider, and we worked together, sharing the headwind and chatted away through the endless winding roads and climbs. We didn't see another rider for quite some time, so I was fairly confident we were near the head of the group, bar the 3 riders i'd let go up front. Eventually, we caught another 2 riders, who decided that they would make use of our rhythm. One of the guys (on a Cervelo) came across a bit arrogant, and wouldn't work with us, but the other decided to help out, great! Not long later, the ratty guy on the Cervelo got dropped (no loss there!), and we were down to three.

I got chatting with the new guy as we battled past the second last feed station, who turned out to be a school teacher. Not long after our water stop, my initial pace mate waved us on as he had decided the pace was too much. I looked down at my odometer, and it read 40miles to go. That was a long 40 miles, let me tell you. It felt as if we were climbing for all of it, although it was probably just heavy legs. As we approached the finish, I was beginning to feel a sense of achievement, as we passed lots of riders come home on the smaller 65mile route who had well and truly hit the wall. Hitting the peak of the last climb, my friend and I (can't recall his name!) shook hands and hammered the descent to the finish. As suspected, my mate tried to hammer away but it appeared I had more left than he thought as I was still on his wheel. On the last run-in to the finish, I went for the sprint and won! A nice sporting finish to a great day on the bike (all 7 hours of it!) - and in plenty time to make the 5.15pm ferry back to Stornoway.

As it turns out, I actually crossed the line in 6th place, which wasn't too bad considering I didn't even race! Perhaps next year I will go for it and try and take the win. My friend Roddy did real well, coming in an hour later than me, and also a great effort from other Hebridean CC riders, Gavin Earons and Steve Liddle who completed the 65mile Route in respectable times. I might mention that Gavin beat Steve to the finish too, not bad for a Grand Vet! :-D

Anyhow, that's enough writing for the evening. I'll keep you all posted on my winter progress, so check back soon. 1deg C today with hail and high winds on the Isle of Lewis - the winter is definately here - oh dear :-(

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

SXC Round 7 UCI C2

Afternoon people. Thought it was time for an update on recent happenings in the life of the only Hebridean XC racer! Haven't posted sooner purely due to the fact i've been completely fried for the last couple of weeks. My body is going to welcome the off-season break!

Anyhow - I made it to the last round of the Scottish XC series at Glentress the other weekend. Not to be making any excuses, but I hadn't been feeling myself all week. My dad had come down with a throat/chest virus thing and although I wasn't sick, I felt that I was trying to fight something off - energy levels just not at their usual, and the legs weren't feeling up to scratch on the bike.

The same was evident on the pre-ride of the Glentress course. I went out the day before with Dave Henderson to check it out - the course suited my abilities perfectly. A long, tough climb followed by a muddy, rooty technical descent and some rooty singletrack. However, after one lap of the course, I could tell something just wasn't right. Next to no power in the legs, and a general feeling of low-motivation. Oh dear. I did another lap on my own to try and regain some focus - it helped a bit.

Come race day, the weather was looking good, and with a strong field I didn't feel under too much pressure to look for the win. Gareth Montgomerie and Rob Seymour were both present, so it would no doubt be a hard-act to follow. The pace off the start was fairly brutal, I held on easy enough but didn't feel on usual form. I climbed my way into 4th position which I held for about 1 lap. The same empty legs feeling was still present from the day before but I tried to hold on as best I could. James Fraser Moodie then closed and passed me - I couldn't respond at all. For the next few laps I could see Iain Nimmo closing as well. Oh dear I thought - here goes 5th. He came past me like I was standing still. Fortunately for me, he cracked bigtime on the next climb and I claimed 5th spot back at the rather poor tempo I was setting! Meanwhile, there was no sign of Andrew Barlow - perhaps he was having an even worse day than me? Coming into the last lap, I thought I had 5th in the bag, not too bad I thought. Then on the technical descent, my chain popped off the cassette and jammed between the frame. I realised this at a moment where I went to apply drive to clear a large hole in the trail which sent me careering over the bars. Ouch! Back on my feet - trying to keep calm and fix the bike, the Torq/Kona Elite rider passed me. I got back on and passed him on the way down - he was poor at descending. Unfortunately I was pretty gone on the climb up to the finish, and he passed me again so I had to settle for 6th, a few seconds back. Happy enough with that!

So that brings the end of my MTB racing season. It has been some year, and I have learned a lot from it. Also got some fantastic results. I'm already planning my off-season training out in my head - eager to come back even stronger next season. A quick tally of the points showed myself and Andrew Barlow were tied for 1st place with 143 points for the Scottish Elite Series! He takes the overall though, as he gained 1 more win than me... bummer! I think he deserves that though, after being 2nd for 2 years running, and i'm just "the new guy" on the scene after all. We certainly had plenty to discuss after a great season of racing over a few beers in Edinburgh that night! (the next morning I had remembered why I decided to cut out alcohol this season too)

I'll shortly be putting up my report on the 130mile Road Sportive event I did in Ullapool last weekend so keep posted.

Happy Off-season


Thursday, 11 September 2008

One final effort...

Well, as the end of the racing season is looming, i'm putting in one final big effort for my last couple of races. I have to admit, all the racing and training is starting to catch up with me and my body is starting to scream for a rest period. It was a bit of a struggle getting back on the bike this week after taking time out for my cousins wedding, but I now have some fresh motivation after some steady miles to get the legs turning. Cycling is strange like that. After rest, I always need a nice steady, low intensity run to bring the "legs back" if you like.

Anyhow, i'm not going to let the body into hybernation mode just yet :-D I have two planned races up ahead - the last round of the Scottish XC MTB series at Glentress, and the week after, a 130mile road sportif to wind down for the season - this starts and finishes in Ullapool, just across the pond for me! After this, i'll likely take a few weeks off, park the bikes up and just relax. I'll only ride if I feel like it. Nice to get training routines out of your head for one point in the year. I also like to do a bit of running/gym in the off-season so that will definately be on the cards. Keep posted for updates on my closing races.

Over and out.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

First Elite Win!!

Evening Readers.

Not had a chance to post for a while as i've been busy with racing/training and also best man duties at my cousins wedding (glad that's over, I nearly hit VO2 max HR doing the speech!!). Anyhow, i'm happy to say that last weekend I took my first ever elite win at Drumlanrig Castle for round 6 of the Scottish XC MTB series. Delighted!!

With such bad luck at Fort William having crashed out and damaged my thumb I was really fired up to get a good result at Drumlanrig. Having stayed at my mate Dave Henderson's (Pedal Power Race Team) again in Edinburgh on the weekend of the race (cheers as always dude), we both travelled down and were in high spirits. For some reason, I felt so relaxed about this one, even more so when I saw the competition was going to be high with both the Creber brothers, James Fraser Moodie and Andrew Barlow on the start sheet.

When race day arrived the weather turned sour. Constant heavy rain turned the course into a complete mudfest. This didn't seem to phase me at all though, in fact, I was kind of looking forward to it. Having the right tyres for the job definately improves your confidence in these kind of conditions. Pulling up on the start grid, I was suprised to see that there was no sign of James. Instead, I had Ross Creber, Andy Barlow and Iain Nimmo to contend with. Iain always seems to come on strong at the end of the season so I was prepared for a suprise, especially after his recent 3rd place at Fort William. Off the start, the pace was suprisingly calm. Myself, Ross and Andy got a bit of a gap and settled into a nice pace. I kind of expected Ross to attack pretty early but he seemed to be staying put. About half way round the first lap, I felt well within the comfort zone. I'm a pretty tactical rider usually, and like to stick to wheels and "follow to the death" if you like, but today for some reason I felt really confident, and decided go things alone and lead from the front. Needless to say, the plan worked. I just rode away on a climb from Ross and Andy and didn't look back. The gap continued to extend until the end of the race, with me even managing to put a faster lap in on lap 4. On the last lap, I had such a lead I decided to back off and nurse things home as the conditions were so bad. I really didn't want a mechanical. Within the last km or so, I started grinning to myself. I could feel that winning glory already. I crossed the line 3 minutes up on Andy Barlow. Turned out Ross appeared to be having a bad day and pulled out of the race on lap 2. Amazing feeling, that's what I call extreme euphoria. Let's hope there will be more to come :-)

I've been chilling out a bit this week, although still putting some miles in. I have to say, my recovery was really good from this race. Instead of dead legs for most of the week, the snap was back in 2 days. I've found out recently that i'm slightly lactose intolerant so have cut the dairy from my diet. Hard thing to do, especially as I love milk, but the soy replacement tastes great. Perhaps this has something to do with my great form too? It certainly didn't hold me back, that's for sure. I've taken the day off training today as yesterday was committed to being best man at my cousins wedding. Ok, almost - I snuck in a swift interval session in early morning before getting changed into my kilt (don't tell the groom!!). A great day though, which topped off my week nicely.

Just one major race left on the calander due to the British NPS Round 5 cancellation farce (Annoyed at this - I could have done with the points for my National Ranking). Anyhow, Sept 21st sees the last round of the Scottish XC MTB series which is also a world UCI E2 class event. I'll be expecting some major competition as plenty Elite boys will be chasing the UCI points so i'll be digging deep for my last big effort of the season. Let's hope I can hold this form! The week after, I have a 130mile Road Sportif which starts from Ullapool, i'll be doing that with some of the local Hebridean CC riders. Looking forward to it.

That's all for now. Slainte Math people!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

SXC Round 5 and Scottish Road Race Champs

Afternoon Readers!

Well it's been an interesting last few weeks. Unfortunately SXC Round 5 at Fort William didn't go to plan at all. Myself and fellow racer Dave Henderson were all prepped up and on our warm up lap 30mins before the start when I made a mistake into a fast technical section and took a rather big off. I jumped straight back on, thinking I was ok, only to realise my knee was pretty smashed up and I had wrenched my thumb badly. I hammered back up to the start to see the ambulance guys with thoughts of getting it patched up, but by the time I reached the damage was evident. The thumb was pretty painfull - I couldn't hold the bars properly or shift the gears and it had swollen up so badly my glove was tight on my hand. Oh dear. So that was it, race over and a trip to Fort Bill A+E for an X-ray. Thankfully it wasn't broken, just a bad ligament sprain. That's racing I guess! It certainly made me realise how much you need your thumb for every-day tasks, normally simple tasks were transformed into complete missions for the next few days :-D

As we speak, now 2 weeks later, the swelling/brusing is pretty much gone from my knee and hand, although the thumb is still quite painful, so i'm keeping off the MTB until it is fully healed.

One area where it didn't affect my riding is on the road bike. The road shifters don't require any thumb input so I could ride the road bike with no issue at all. Having obtained selection for the Scottish Road Race Championships in Hawick recently, I thought it would be a good event to make up for the past weekend.

The 9mile course was quite technical as far as Road racing goes, with narrow winding country lanes, some short climbs and long flat sections. We had to complete 9 laps of the course, totalling 81miles which was pretty tough, let me tell you. I was going into this race after a hard weeks training too, so was pretty tired to start with. To get maximum training benefit, I decided to go with most of the attacks, but unfortunately none managed to stay away until right near the end, where I got into a small chase group behind the leading group. I ended up finishing 15th out of an 80 man peleton, which I was quite happy with. I quite enjoyed the switch to road, it made for some different racing, and also hurt the legs in a different way, with all the accelerations and attacks. With MTB, it is more of a constant, TT style effort, and I certainly noticed that I didn't have that "snap" that I had last year when I focused training towards some Road events, so a great result considering.

Right now i've taken a few days off for recovery. I've been getting pretty fatigued over the last few weeks as a lot of riders do at this time of year so the rest is much needed. It seems that all i've been doing is eating and sleeping, but i've managed to get a few little tasks out of the way at the same time. I'm feeling a bit more refreshed today, and the ravenous appetite has calmed down so I think i'm pretty much recovered. Not too many races left on the race Calander, I have 2 scottish XC MTB, a North Wales British NPS and possibly some "fun" events to wind down the season with, such as Relentless 24hr in Fort William.

Anyhow, time to wash the bike from last weekend and watch some more Olympics on the BBC. Cheers!

Friday, 25 July 2008

Fort William Bound...

Morning all! First post in a while. Things have been rather busy so I haven't had too much time to update. Over the last few weeks i've been getting some great training in. I've also been busy with other projects (getting motorbike ready for M.O.T) and work so not much spare time!

I've also had a little race. A couple of weeks ago, the Island hosted the Hebridean Challenge which is a 5-day adventure race through the Outer Hebridies. I got invited down to that to participate in the MTB and Road time trials, but could only make it to the MTB TT due to work commitments. Needless to say, I had a great ride, and even though I was pretty fatigued going into the race, I finished 1st by over 40mins. I should mention that the guys I was racing with weren't MTB specialists by any means, and they had been racing for a few days so there were some tired legs but it was great training none the less, so a really enjoyable event, and great to have it on my home turf for a change!

This weekend, i'm racing at Fort William for Scottish XC MTB round 5. This is one of my fav courses as it has a monster climb followed by technical, fast descent. The following weekend, i'm racing the Scottish Road Race Championships in Hawick too, so plenty to look forward to. Will update soon with the results.

Anyway, got to dash... time for work :-)

Saturday, 28 June 2008

3rd at Scottish Champs!!

Evening readers. I'm happy to say that i've just bagged myself another great result of the season with 3rd at the Scottish XC MTB Championships. The race was held down in Glennifer Braes, Paisley last weekend which provided a controversial course which had very little total climbing and long, grassy drags across fields and through a couple of wooded sections.

My good friend Dave Henderson who is dominating the Sport category this year offered to put me up for the weekend, which was great as he lives not too far away in Edinburgh (thanks for that again Dave). We both hit the course on the Saturday to get in a practice lap, but being more of a climber, I didn't hold out much hope of doing so well on the flatter course which kind of resembled a Belgian cyclocross circuit. Despite criticism, I actually quite liked the course and could tell it would really test your fitness to the max, as there was pretty much no-where to rest.

However, come race day, we were hit with some heavy rain and on walking up to sign-in we could see that everything had changed - the course had turned very muddy indeed. The fact that everyone was mounting up 1.5" Mud tyres didn't make me feel any better about the situation though, as I had an almost semi-slick rear and worn Conti Explorer up front, and no other tyres with me. Trying to stay calm, I knocked the pressure down a bit to try and find some grip.

The race was started 200m down a rather steep, World Cup style, tarmac road climb which had been closed off for the race. Being the championship round, Sport and Elite/Expert were all started together, so there was a fair old peleton of riders elbowing and shoving once the start whistle went. I took no chances at this one, and powered up the outside, straight into 3rd/4th position behind Andy Barlow before we hit the mud. The effects of my recent cold were soon evident as I was coughing up all sorts of nasty snot and flegm soon after the start (eww). Half a lap in, I was holding Andy's wheel, closely followed by James Fraser Moodie and another couple of riders. Up front, Gareth Mongtomerie (who had just won the Elite British National race the week before) and Rab Wardel were driving things on. Before long, James Fraser attacked and I followed through, which appeared to leave Andy unable to respond (!!). That was the last we saw of him for the race. The two of us plowed on ahead, but were soon joined by my mate Dave Henderson for the next lap or so (top effort Dave!).

From then on, it was pretty much myself and James battling and trying to stay upright for 3rd position. We kept getting shouts advising 1min to the leaders, but on lap 3, I made a bit of a mistake which gave James a little gap. However, in traditional style, I kept something for the last lap, and came past him just into lap 5, with him unable to follow. With my sights then set on Rab Wardel, who I could see just up front, it was "full hammer" to the finish. Disaster then struck with about 1km to go, as the rear mech jammed up, ripping the hanger clean off!! I proceeded to run with the bike, hoping that i'd make it to the line before James caught me. Let me tell you, the run hurt more than the entire race, I must have gone completely anaerobic for those few mins until I crossed the line, thankfully with James still out of sight.

Beaten up and caked with the finest Paisley mud, I was however quite content with 3rd spot on the podium. Nice to reach one of my other goals of the season. I also figured that the recent interval work must have payed off. I'm definately one of the lightest riders on the start list so doing so well on a flat course must mean that i've upped my wattage output a bit. Just wait for a course where power to weight comes into play - Fort William is the next round and it's on the World cup circuit ;-)

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Back on form

Well, thanks to some strong will power and constant lectures from my parents, I took 2 complete days off the bike after the cold hit me and woke up on sunday fully cured. It just goes to show how some proper rest really can help with sickness, as i'm normally reluctant to relax and keep training, only to end up feeling crap with lingering symptoms.

I kept the first couple of days back on the bike nice and steady, with little intensity to be on the safe side, and ramped things up last night with a few short interval sessions. Went on the Hebridean CC club run tonight and can confirm that i'm back to form, legs are feeling *very* good indeed, so very much looking forward to the Scottish Champs this weekend. The entry list shows some fairly top competition, so it's going to be a tough race. Keep tuned for a report!

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Just as everything was going so well...

Hello readers. At the moment, i'm sat in the house doing as little as possible as i've been hit by a bad cold. Feeling pretty weak/tired with it and the nose is streaming so decided the best way to get better quickly is to lay off training. Not a happy chappy, but I haven't had any illness since the new year so I really cannot complain as we are half way through 2008 already (where has it gone to?!).

The Scottish XC MTB Championships is on next weekend, and as you can imagine, it's not exactly the best preparation but these things happen. On the positive side, the speed work i've been doing in the last two weeks has brought through some of the best form i've ever had, so I think that i'll still put in a good performance if this cold clears quick enough. Very surprised how quickly i've responded to the speed work, i'm really feeling that the large amount of base training over the winter has payed dividends for this. I did a pretty hard 65mile road run last sunday and walked into the house feeling fresh as a daisy.

I've never been a fan of taking medication when you are sick unless you really need because it never seems to do much for me and just fills your system with stuff it isn't used to. So, at the moment i'm just drinking lots of (non caffeinated) fluids and sticking to my healthy diet, while watching the premium section of http://www.cycling.tv/, which is keeping the cycling adrenaline flowing ;0)

Peace out people.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Back to the plan...

Well that's me back into the training regime after a 5 day rest period off. It kind of felt a bit strange not to be riding the bike, but it was great to just relax, and take the chance to catch up with some things that i've been meaning to do for a while but not had the time to. Last weekend, I went fishing with my father and sister in some cracking weather, and we managed to catch 4 brown trout which was just great. I was also permamently hungry, so can confirm that after eating my way through the kitchen and sleeping loads, i'm fully recovered! Thankfully the weather has held out, and the sun is still shining so it's been a joy to do anything outdoors.

After a layoff, I always go back into things with re-kindled enthusiasm so this week i've been up before college every morning doing interval training on the turbo, followed by an easier, recovery session in the evening. I figured it was a good time to start some speed focused training as i've not been able to do any structured speed work yet this year with the busy race schedule i've had over the past few months. Things seem to be working very well indeed so far, the legs are feeling very good and I can feel benefit from the speed work already. Last year, I really started riding on top form after this type of training session, so hopefully i'll respond well to them this year too.

The Scottish XC MTB Championships is on the 22nd of June so I won't be racing until then, instead i'll just be focusing on training leading up to the event. If last years course was anything to go by, it was fairly flat so it may not suit my build so well, but the course is all-new so with any luck, I might be blessed with some tough climbs. Currently on day 2 of rest after a hard 4-day block, so will be enjoying the sunshine tommorow with a 60miler in the morning and easier, recovery session in the afternoon. Adios for now amigos!

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Scottish XC Round 3 - 2nd Elite/Expert

Howdy people. Just got back on Monday from the 3rd round of the Scottish XC MTB series which was (for once) held nice and close to me at Fyrish, just outside Dingwall. I'm still grinning about this one as it's pretty much my best result ever, so i'm very pleased. What's also good is that it could be regarded as my "local" race as it's as close as it gets with just a 60ish mile drive from Ullapool after the 2hr 45min ferry crossing.

Arriving at the course on saturday, I soon realised that this one would be a true test of skill and fitness. The course was described as "old skool" by many, meaning that there wasn't anything in the way of man made groomed berms or surfaces here. Instead, what you basically had was a lot of climbing up some very steep and loose fireroads, through some wooded sections and then a long, natural surfaced singletrack descent through the trees which was full of holes/roots and technical bits to really catch you out. A real nice course!

Myself and Dave stayed at the friendly Fyrish B+B where we recieved a nice warm welcome, with the lady owner even letting us use her kitchen to knock up some Pasta the night before the race, having failed to find somewhere locally that actually served Pasta (Dingwall people appear to live on chippy's and indians...). Anyhow, the B+B brewed Pasta satisfied the fueling strategy perfectly, and after a good nights sleep and some pre-race oatmeal, were good to go!

It appeared that i'd have a good fight on my hands at this one, as Ross Creber (Science in Sport/Trek), Andrew Barlow (Whyte Bikes), James Fraser Moodie (Pedalpower) and Kenny Riddle (An ex-scottish champion) amongst others, were all registered at sign-on. Not so bad I thought, a top 5 and I would be happy. However, I had the gut desire to really lay things out today and try and beat Andy as he's only been winning from me by a small margin in the last few races.

Off the start and into the climb. Ross Creber, being a full time cyclist and british olympic development squad rider, really ripped things apart with a mega fast start, with everyone breathing out their rears trying to hang onto the pace up the climb. I did my usual kind of thing, starting a bit slower but keeping an eye on Andy, and after the first lap, I was right on his wheel, dicing for 2nd position. I felt within my comfort zone on the climbs so decided to hold position and let things unfold. Lap 3 came and James Fraser Moodie appeared to be closing on us. After seeing this, Andy attacked hard and pulled out maybe 30-40 seconds on me, but I just kept the current pace going as I thought it was too early in the race to be digging deep. James never managed to close me down completely, and dropped back during the next lap, where I started to close in on Andy again. Lap 4 and I was on his wheel again, and I could tell he was suffering so decided to make the move. Into the climb, I stepped things up a gear, which proved successful and I arrived at the top of the course solo (although hurting quite a bit) and knew at this point I was home-free unless I made a major mistake on the technical descent. I soon arrived across the line in 2nd, 2mins in front of Andy, with Ross winning, being a good few mins in front of me. A very tough race indeed, but with a very euphoric outcome. Such a good feeling accomplishing what you've set out to do!

Right now, i've decided to take my first rest week of the year for both a physical and mental break, so have been relaxing and doing a bit of walking and stuff. All the racing sure takes it out of you, i've been sleeping like a baby for 10-11hrs the past few nights and am constantly hungry. I like to think of it as repair mode. I haven't even taken my bike out of the Van! My sister is also home at the weekend so we are going to do a spot of Trout Fishing, and i'm also planning on getting the motorbike (Honda Fireblade) on the road.

That's it for now, catch you people later :-)

Sunday, 18 May 2008

British NPS/Whyte Enduro Rnd 2 Report (3rd/3rd)

Hello fellow cycle readers! I've been meaning to type this one up all week but i've been pretty busy, while also trying to concentrate on recovery as it has been a tough couple of weeks.

Due to my home location up on the Isle of Lewis here, British National races are normally pretty much out of the question due to the travel/cost involved, but as the second round was visiting Drumlanrig Castle (just north of Dumfries) this year, I thought i'd take the opportunity to mix it with the "big boys". Like most of the British NPS, the XC races are on Saturday, followed by the Whyte Enduro series on the Sunday which I hadn't initially planned to do.

Making the most of my time off work, I hadn't lifted off the training since the last race so was feeling a bit more tired than usual. Myself and Dave H from Pedal Power kipped at his dad's hangout just outside of Glasgow the night before, fueling up on some Pasta I knocked up, and headed down on the Saturday for the Race. A quick pre-ride of the course showed it was pretty much the same as last years SXC so it didn't take long to familiarise myself with things. I really wanted to try and go with Andrew Barlow (Whyte Bikes) at this race, but as I hadn't raced an NPS before, I was gridded right at the back so it didn't look possible.

With the race under way, the field bottle-necked at the first singletrack section. I was trying to nip through and pass people where possible, but with so much single track, I was being held up considerably. However, after 3 laps of the 5 lap race, I had worked my way through the main traffic and found a good rythm, passing riders along the way. Thankfully the Rockhard Racing crew offered to help at the feeding zone again, with the big man Alistair Crichton handing out my bottles, giving great encouragement as always (Cheers mate!). In the closing stages, I managed to get the hammer down properly and made my way up to 3rd place, finishing 25seconds down on 2nd. A great result! I got to step up onto the podium for the second time in a week, and recieved a nice glass trophy. Full Report on XC Racer.com . My buddy Dave Henderson also had a great race, winning the Sport Class!

Having finished the race feeling a lot fresher than normal (or so I thought), I decided i'd try and make the most of the weekend, and do the Whyte Enduro the next day as training. Dave wasn't so keen as he was feeling slightly ill, so after trying to "blag" a lift from various random people, Rockhard came to the rescue once again, this time in the form of Alistair Crichton's wife's people carrier. (hope she didn't mind the muddy seats Al!). Waking to an early 7.30am start, I met himself and Morven Brown (Rockhard's fast female xc racer) and we headed on' down to the race for some Enduro action!

The legs felt slightly heavy but after a gentle warmup, I was good to go, and entered the 75km event. The start was pretty fast, with some guys going off at breakneck speed (not a good idea for a 4hr+ race) so I paced things easy to start with. After an hour or so, I was joined by another couple of riders, and we were slowly making our way up the field. Eventually, I ended up riding with a Nevis Cycles rider doing the Vet's race, who put in a big attack with well over an hour of racing to go, so I dropped back and decided to hold pace. Single track... roots... Singletrack.. roots, then more Singletrack and roots, mentally this was turning out to be a tough race. However, before I knew it, I only had 15km to go so started to up the pace. I passed another couple of riders and crossed the line with a strong finish. Not knowing where I was placed, Ben Thompson from Nevis Cycles informed me I came in 3rd (!!) so it was a step up to the podium once again for the 3rd time in a week! Rockhard's Morven Brown also had a great race, placing 3rd in the Womens 50km, so it was smiles all round :-)

Feeling rather "toasted", it was back up to Glasgow to satisfy the post-race munchies at my Sisters flat, after which I decided to indulge in a single pint of fine spanish to celebrate. Big thanks to Alistair Crichton and Dave Henderson, who helped make a good weekend of racing even better!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

SXC Round 2 Report - 2nd!

Round 2 of the Scottish XC MTB series took me all the way south to Dalbeattie, just outside of Dumfries. The pre-ride on Saturday showed some good weather and a cracking technical course with some running sections so things were looking good. Bill Ross from Rockhard Racing had supported me at the feed zone last round, albeit with burger in hand at one point, so as this bunch of friendly paisley lads were offering to do the same this round, I offered to race in a Rockhard top for the race. This time round, "The Fish" stood for near on 2hrs at the feed zone for me, giving great encouragement on every lap. Cheers again guys!

Race day arrived and the weather looked promising. After a good nights sleep at the nearby Cowans farm guest house, I was good to go. A fairly brisk start saw me sitting in the 2nd leading bunch at the top of the first Climb. Andrew Barlow and Paul Newham had shot on up ahead, but I had them in sight so thought i'd stay put and see how things developed. Within another lap, Newham had dropped off and joined me, so we worked together into the headwind along the long fireroad sections to try and close down Barlow. A few shouts from spectators said 2mins to Barlow, and I was well within my limits so on lap 4 I decided to put the hammer down and see if I could close things down. I soon dropped Newham who seemed to be fading, and was closing on Barlow but it wasn't quite enough, so settled for 2nd, finishing nice and strong. A great race, and a great result this early in the season!

And now... bedtime. I'm still trying to recover from the antics at the weekend... more of that later ;-)

Living like a Pro

Well... i'm not quite a pro cyclist, but thanks to a week holiday from work, i've been dedicating my time to full time training and racing. Not been on here to update as i've been making the most of the superb sunshine over the past week, which not only produced some great cycling weather, but also the classic cycling "half leg/half arms" tan. Oh dear. Well it looks good with the cycling kit on at least! The past week has seen me racing 3 times (Scottish XC Round 2, British NPS Round 2 and Whyte Enduro Round 2) so as you can imagine i've been on the go constantly, travelling about and training in between. Got some nice results as well. I'm going to put up a separate report for each one so stay tuned!

Right now, it's back to work so back to "part time" cyclist for the foreseeable future. Lunch time now, i'm starving :-)

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Into the Hills of Harris

In the week before a big race, I tend to build things up before tapering off the days leading up to the event, to ensure recovery come race day. I guess it's just a psychological thing really, I like to be sure in my own mind that everything is in order. So, after a hard effort on the Mountain bike on Saturday, I wanted to check out my endurance status and decided to go for one of my favorite training runs, the 75mile Stornoway to Tarbert and back route on the Road.

As far as training routes on the Isle of Lewis go, this is one of the closest training routes you'll get to that of a Mountain stage race. The route takes you south over rolling hills, and then into Harris, where you will encounter the Clisham road climb, (Highest Hill/Mountain on the Island) and Ardhasaig climb as well as the rolling climbs between them, all with respectable gradients. This is a ride that has in the past had me pushed beyond the limit and "abandoning" before completion.

Today was going to be no exception, as when I set out at 9am with my pockets stuffed with snacks, I discovered the forecasted SW wind was a lot stronger than expected. Despite this, I paced well, climbed the Clisham road feeling fresh and arrived in "ghost town" Tarbert (geez, it is quiet on sunday!!) after 2.5hrs of riding with a slightly disappointing 14mph average speed. Things would change on the way back however, as the wind that had me nearly blown off my bike at points was now a tailwind. This certainly helped up the rather steep Ardhasaig climb, and 30mph+ along flat sections wasn't unseen, which had me arriving back in Stornoway in a pleasing 4hrs and 7mins. No camera with me, so here is a shoddy pic taken by Ardhasaig that I found via google images.

Feeling suprisingly fresh after that, so I will perhaps try a 30min recovery ride or short walk later to clear out the legs. What better way to spend a Sunday :-)

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

The sun is shining, at last!

Well, it has been a long and harsh winter up here on the Western Isles, but I think the worst of it is finally over *touches wood*. We've had some great days here recently, with clear skies and a slighly crispy easterly breeze which has allowed me to get in some great training miles. I've actually managed to get out 3 times in shorts as well as the temp has been in the low teens. Amazing really, last year I was riding in shorts/short sleeve top in March!

I used the "2 a day" training method again at the weekend, morning session was a very hard 2.5hr MTB effort and in the afternoon, a 1 hour recovery ride which did wonders as I felt really wiped out after the morning. Definately using the 2 a day approach from now on.

Things seem to be building up quite nicely as i've started adding more intensity since the last race and I feel i've got that extra gear in the legs. The next race I have is the Scottish XC MTB round 2 at Dalbeattie Forest in Dumfries on the 4th of May, followed by the British National Points Series, not too far away at Drumlanrig Castle the weeked after. Although not my best courses, i'm really looking forward to these.

Well that's 10pm so bed time for me. I need all the sleep I can get! For the meantime, I found a wee pic from the last race that I stole from someones flikr site. Muddy - yes indeed! Later people.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

2 Training sessions in one day? Why not...

This Sunday past, I decided to have a "long lie" for a change which is about 9.30am for me - I hate lazing and wasting time lying in bed! My usual get up time on the weekends is 8.30-9am, so seeing as I had the extra rest, an idea sprung to mind - why not try training twice in the one day? After reading in Joe Friel's Training Bible that it is better than one longer session as it causes your body to release twice the "growth hormone" I thought I would give it a go.

A bowl of porridge and a cuppa saw my road bike mounted on the Turbo (an indoor trainer so you can ride your bike inside) for my pre-lunch session. Things get boring on the Turbo, so I stick on some music and watch cycling.tv in my bedroom which saw 1.25hrs total work time with some intense 5min intervals above my threshold output. Legs suitably sore after this, so whacked down some nice Ovaltine chocolate milk to aid recovery before lunch.

In the afternoon I decided to get in some steady tempo miles, so I went out and did a 40mile loop round Breasclete/North Lochs which took just over the 2hr mark. The legs were quite "tight" feeling for the first 20mins into the ride, but to my suprise, I felt very good once warmed up. Can't say I noticed any extra fatigue the next day so I may be working this into my training plan from now on. I may try it again this coming weekend and so how things fair.

Anyhow, Friday tommorow and looking forward to a nice easy rest day. Hope the sun keeps shining!


Friday, 11 April 2008

SXC Round 1 Report

This sunday past saw the first round of the Scottish XC Mountain Bike series at Laggan Wolftrax. I was quite looking forward to this race as I was keen to test my form after the best winter preparation i've ever had so far as a cyclist.

I travelled down in the van via the Stornoway-Ullapool Ferry on the Saturday, met my mate Dave H and did a couple of "rekkie" laps of the course to check things out. I knew this course well, having raced here twice before, and it is always a good feeling going back to it as the long climb seems to be smaller than I remember every year for me - lets hope this effect keeps going that way! Descent is nice and fast, and they had re-graded the surface in places, making it even faster than usual. Back to the superb Greystones B+B in Kingussie for a good nights sleep, where myself and Dave woke early doors and looked out the window to find this view;
Oh dear. Despite thoughts of the race being cancelled, the snow melted enough for us to race (phew) and before I knew it, 2pm had come and I was sitting on the start line with a stack of other Elite riders, and the commisaire was shouting 30seconds to go.

The start was as per usual, fairly frantic. I worked my way through the field and found myself in 3rd place at the top of the climb, just behind Hamish Creber (Sandy Walace Cycles) and Andy Barlow (Whyte Bikes), within my limits. By lap 3, I decided to drop back as the pace up the climb seemed a bit hot. Bit of a mis-hap occured after this on the descent when I dropped two of my energy gels and shades. Bummer. From there I was running solo, until James Fraser Moodie (Pedal Power) joined me on lap 5. He proceeded to put in a couple of attacks on the climb after this, where I responded and kept his wheel. All was looking good going into the last lap and I felt confident for a sprint showdown but the muddy, gritty conditions gave me some dreaded chainsuck and lost me a good 20m to James on the climb. I couldn't bridge the gap unfortunately so had to settle for 4th position, 15seconds behind James, and a couple of mins down on the leading pair.

Despite the issues, i'm more than happy with this result so early in the season! It appears I have indeed stepped up a gear from last year, so i'm looking forward to the next rounds. A great feeling indeed to be right up there at the front of the race! No race pics this round but a wee shot of the bike the morning after, before I did some training round Fort William World Cup circuit;

Over and out for now


Thursday, 10 April 2008

Welcome to my Blog!

Hello people!! My first post, so here goes. I've setup this page primarily to keep up to date on my progress as a "part time" cyclist in Training, Mountain Bike and Road racing events and also any other random things that I face along the way! I guess it is about time when I think about it, as this year will be my 3rd season of racing, and decided a while back when on a long, cold training ride somewhere in the middle of no-where, I am now most definately addicted to cycling so it was about time I started a blog to ramble on about what i'm up to.

The season has now officially begun, with me having participated in 2 races so far (1 road, 1 MTB) so keep tuned in for reports on my efforts!

Ciao for now