Real World Racing Race Reports
6th March 2015
Performance enhancing - unfortunately the performance is: standing up
Pre Season 'Training'
At 8 weeks out from the first event of the year (Dunked Enduro - on 2nd May) having missed the start of the Scottish Enduro Series at Peebles on the 8th March due to work commitments, I planned a 4 part preparation:
1 - Lose a few pounds for 2 weeks
2 - Strength training on the sprint trainer (or single speed bus chasing in town)
3 - Endurance Training - Longer XC rides on the big bike and maybe a little bit of road biking
4 - Technique - some harder trails.
In a comedic turn of events, as week 1, populated by only getting on a bike once, in appalling conditions, ended with me catching a cold, I then popped my back out coughing. Now doped up (legally btw) on whatever the pharmacist was willing to sell me, the training plan is somewhat in disarray. To be fair, it was never very sophisticated in the first place, more an excuse to get out and ride more, but this has removed all semblance of preparedness from the process. Roll on May!!
14th March 2015 - PREPARATION - Well the work - life - bike balance was a bit skewed towards work again, and while still recovering from the cold it was probably a week better spent recovering anyway. I did manage to start rebuilding the big bike though ready for the start of the season. This season will begin with having gone from 2x9 to 2x10 with a clutch derailleur, so we'll see how that works out. I've been hovering about the whole 1x10 thing, but with the single ring and range expander necessary with my poor knees, I'm putting this off for a bit. Next week training starts properly (honest), although there will need to be some more mechanic-ing as I discovered that my back wheel is not very round - that'll be the Dudes of Hazzard Enduro for you then.
feeling Very pleased with myself for getting out
2nd Half of March 2015 & Easter - 'Training' - went from non-existent due to 6 day weeks to a few quick forays into the hills. Lent was particularly useful (apart from what it's supposed to be for) in that booze and chocolate were off the menu for me and so I dropped a little 'ballast' and got out a bit. Great for the confidence getting on the big bike on proper mountains (well Dumyat and Conic Hill to name but two - ok all of them), but the Easter holiday has seen a massive upturn in getting the road bike out and getting some mileage in. After all, in Enduro racing at my level a big factor of how well you do is how much of a sweating lactic acid filled sack of ... you are when you get to the top of the stage. I'll continue working on fitness now for the next 3 (!) weeks, and that will hopefully have an effect on the speed during the stages too. Just got to do some big scary stuff too to get the sphincter muscles ready for Glen Coe. Oh and I re-rounded the back wheel again and rebuilt the dropper post so we're all systems go at the moment. May have also commissioned race shirts for the RWR race team, more next time...
25th April - 1 week before the Dunked Enduro. Have been interspersing chasing busses in Glasgow (aka interval training) with pushing as hard as possible for 7 mile stretches every two to three days to increase the length of power output. This seems to be paying dividends as I am now less likely (it seems) to be on the edge of barfing in front of the neighbours as they enjoy a nice evening barbeque when I get home. This also fits in well with the day job and commuting too, and I'm feeling pretty good. To stretch the bike skills a little and the general stamina - two of us managed a 7 hour 60km epic cross country ride last weekend too, which if nothing else makes me a little calmer about both the length of time in the saddle in the Enduro and the distance. There were also a few underlying mechanical issues with the bike which jumped out (and off!) on the bigger ride, so although it was a bit expensive, a number of bits have been improved. Managed to get a deal on a Schwalbe Hans Dampf for the back to go Hans back and front, removed the rear rim dint, replaced the snapped gear hanger, and replaced the not very old but nevertheless gubbed headset bearings. So all in all, other than being fitter and faster, I'm feeling pretty prepared for next Saturday. Roll on the weekend.....
Team RWR in the paddock eating Cake - 3/3 on the Thompson scale
Highland Perthshire Cycling Dunkeld Enduro - 2nd May
I've taken the liberty of writing a much fuller account of the day at Dunked Enduro to complement the beginners Enduro articles earlier, so here's the highlights:
It's a 4 stage blind Enduro based around Dunked, which for a day gets taken over by luminous Marshalls and muddy bikers making their way between Newtyle and Craigvinnean. Stage 1 was a repeat of last year's, and a high speed descent of much varied terrain from open loamy slopes, off-camber skininess, and shaley slate quarries it was a fast and furious stage with some excellent and testing trail to take at speed and finishing with a few good quality greasy roots.
The climb to the top of stage 2 was pretty brutal all the way to the top of the mast, and to the surprise of the day which was stage 2. The trail building team had been working overtime and produced a brand new stage which was truly awesome. Multiple tight and steep switchbacks with often near vertical exits, and catch berms at the bottom of impossible drops made this an absolute beauty of a trail and one that made all the pedalling uphill well worth while.
Stage 3 had been stage 2 last year and had the infamous 'chute' in its midst. Ali was looking forward to this, but I'd had a previous brush with it and wasn't looking forward to it so much. The weather had produced a perfect surface tacky on top but firm and dry underneath and this proved to be as great for stage 3 as it had been on the previous two stages. Having ridden it before I knew that remaining 'wheels down' at the bottom with a minimum of brake use would spit you out on a fire road, so relaxed a little, but was still apprehensive. Withthe great surface and grip it rode really well.
Arriving at the start of stage 1
Across town and crossing under the A9 saw us heading up the hill toward the top of stage 4, and the descent through the Downhill Course and into the paddock above the Hermitage. We headed up the hill not sure of the start, so with tiring legs we were relieved to find the top of stage 4 above the second forest track, in the same place as last year. This stage started fairly mellow, but soon saw riders rattling through roots and rounded slippy rocks like a human pinball. Taking a straight line at one point I was briefly wondering why there was a line choice, when I found myself in mid-air coming off what felt like a 3 foot drop. Shortly after, I succumbed to the pinball effect and pinged off the trail sideways into a tree and had to stop for a minor adjustment of the steering, wobbled down onto the second fire road, and then went for the finish. Race speed was never engaged as I registered there was something wrong with the front tyre and cruised for the finish, only to discover that I had been thwarted by half the forest coming between the tyre and the rim on the sideways slide into the tree.
And that was why it looked kind of funny - the hazard of low pressure tyres
We finished just before the prize giving was announced for the youth races held in the forest at the same time, which was an excellent piece of organising, and spent a good wee while catching up in the paddock before retiring and packing up. Both Ali and I had a great day on some awesome tracks, and will be back again next year, and for stage 2; probably well before then too. I came in 21st Vet, while Ali, in a very competitive senior category (with Joe Barnes coming in 3rd) came in 43rd in only his second Enduro - well done.
A huge 'thank you' both to the organisers, and specifically to whoever was responsible for stage 2.
Bluegrass Glen Coe Enduro by No Fuss Events - 9th May 2015
Again, a fuller report on the event can be found here, so here are the highlights.
3 stages of challenging mountain riding on a stunningly clear spring day in Glen Coe; what could be better? - well how about one of the very few chairlift assisted events in the UK!
A taste of what's to come
Stage 1 was a blind start with only a view of pros, tiny in the distance below, to give us any clue to the route ahead. Dibbing in at the start we were rapidly pointing down the mountainside with bands of rocks, gravel, grass and snow patches to contend with at speed. As this turned to bogs we rapidly flattened out, and soon began the climb to the top of the hill above.
Left to right over the hill we go!
Pretty much everyone I saw gave up riding at some point and jogged up to the summit, and then we all rode on again to start the rapid descent to the ski centre. The steeper descent form the hill shot us over burns into bogs and then to the top of the Red Downhill course at Glen Coe. This is a great mix of rocks, both bedrock and boulders, with bands of mud as well, in a huge single zig-zag across the side of the mountain. Mis-reading a small ramp on the outward top section a number of us had brushes with a surprise gap jump over a burn. This then turned into a left turn and a muddy joining section between the top and bottom (return) section. The mud was just the right consistency, and with no front braking allowed a good line to be held down until the trail turned to rock and gravel again for the rush for the finishing line.
On to the finish
Stage 2 led us again up the chairlifts to the top of the second lift, and out across to an unavoidable snow start to the section. A U turn near the start of the section made it inevitable that riders would traverse an arena in front of the waiting riders. By the time I was up, the established start method across the snowy traversing start seemed to be on foot, so I duly ran from the start and hit the first grass patch at full tilt. Riding from here then aimed us all at the inevitable big snow patch all hoping to make it across without the fall and inevitable cheer from above. I got just past the point where I thought I'd got it sussed before my front wheel washed out leaving me on foot again to the boggy traverse of the centre of the plateau.
Queuing for the second stage start
A boggy traverse on foot and wheel spat us out onto the access road for a razz to the top of the Downhill course for the second descent. This time hitting it with increased confidence and speed it was smoother and a much better ride with the knowledge gained from the first descent.
After a wee rest, it was the third and final time to jump on the lifts again and head up the mountain. We all gathered at the top of the second lift in order to make the brutal climb to the staging area and start of stage 3 and the mass start.
Gathering in readiness for the carnage
After a few minutes of good natured banter on the start line, with the first 4 lines seeded and the rest in a self placed mêlée behind, the GO was given and we were off zig-zagging down through snow filled gullies, to eventually (and now more spread out) to hit the lower reaches of stage 1 just before the bogs and the hill. There were obviously more people to ride and then run with this time, but as we descended the hill for the second time, we again spread out into small knots of riders, being spat out onto the Downhill course for the third and final time.
This time, the left turn toward the lower return was a moment sooner, and saw a knot of us racing down the "ditch of doom" a boggy gully straight down the hillside to the lower track. With a lot of muddy and boggy switching and vying we were quickly spat out onto the more solid track for the final rush for the finish line.
Many thanks to No Fuss for organising such a brilliant and well run event, to Bluegrass and Met for their sponsorship, and to the greater team of Marshalls who saw us straight out on the hill. Congratulations to the winners, especially those in the youth category for their excellent riding of a long, testing, and tough course and challenging event
Time to come clean: much of the Scottish Enduro Series seemed to clash with something else. There's been a lot of family stuff that needed time to be spent on, and so much of this year has been spent getting out on big adventures rather than racing, so no SES ranking for this year. I'm even familiar with our local rides organiser through chatting with him, but am still to get out with the locals even now. The end of the season however finishes with the Falkirk Funduro, with a day and night race on the 21st November, so I've got myself a place for the season's finale. With more and more stuff appearing on social media it seems like I may well be seeing everyone there that I've missed all year, so if you see the RWR shirt, come say Hi!
21st November 2015 - Falkirk Funduro (day/night enduro)
Let's not beat about the bush here; it's Baltic in November! it also gets dark early so that's ideal for anything which involves, well, the dark. So starting out in the light it was just Baltic (a fair start).
One thing that struck me was that although there were a few familiar faces from other Enduros, there was also a huge number of normal well adjusted people as well, and loads of families, locals and people out for a good time in family groups - it was a great atmosphere.
Day Event Start Line
We were grouped with start times, so had a chance to mingle for a while, then a rather sociable time while waiting for our group off for the ride to the start of stage 1. Being a blind event, we didn't know what to expect, so there was a little nervousness, and of course little opportunity to get your head round a pace for the approach to the first stage as we didn't know how far it was going to be. As it turned out, the most painful part was the delayed start which left us shivering for quite a bit as presumably the kids competition went on a little longer than planned.
Heading out a bit cold and stiff, being very polite, we headed out in our group. Meeting old acquaintances along the way in the way you do if you spend way too much time in the outdoors.
I think I speak for everyone in saying that stage 1 started much sooner than we thought it would. A surprised chorus of "no, after you, no, no I insist!" ensued, and then we rapidly sorted ourselves out and went for it on what was one of the most pedally enduro sections I've ever done in my entire puff. And I mean puff - I had no idea that I actually had three lungs - but I'm sure I left two of them on the stage at various points.
This stage rather set the scene for the rest of the enduro. There were various technical sections, and even one muddy roots section (which I found quicker to push through - there; I admit it), the overwhelming memory left by the event was pedalling like a pedally thing all the way through. I quickly realised I'd completely brought the wrong bike in riding my 160mm enduro bike.
This isn't a complaint by the way; it actually tips a big hat to the organisers Muckmedden in making the event open to all, which was brilliant as a community event, which by the starting paddock it clearly was, and was in spades. The kids events and balance bike race were not unique to enduros, (see HPC Dunkeld events) but really added to the family atmosphere.
Come the night (about 4:30pm!) we lined up again to ride the same track with its very distinct stages with muddy roots, mad short climbs, rocky XC and flat out sprinting on the flat. Once more there was a long wait chilling waiting riders, but (perhaps over-) enthusiastic volunteers brought burning logs to the front row to add some warmth and a lot of atmosphere to the event.
Bearing in mind I knew now what to expect (and had cranked up the compression damping accordingly) I'm not sure whether this was an advantage or not. Certainly my times were slightly longer for the night stages, but I definitely retained all lungs on stage 1 and both legs on stage 2, and so perhaps I took it a little easier, but enjoyed it much better the second time round, even the second bit of 'off piste' a tight right hander onto a rock covered ridge, which I managed to make a second pigs ear of.
The banter was great at the start lines, with a continuation of the fun atmosphere added to by the number of groups of mixed adults and teenagers taking part and egging each other on (and off) on the stages, but the finish line was still very welcome when it came.
As I said earlier, the event was a great beginners guide to enduro, definitely a funduro as advertised. There was a great family atmosphere throughout, and bar the long waits before the off, the event management worked very well indeed. I may not ride the endure bike next year, but if I'm about I'll definitely ride again, and I would urge anyone thinking of having a go, to give this event a bash next year if they manage to avoid any of the other events earlier in the year.
February 2016 - BETTER LATE THAN NEVER (APPARENTLY)
For a number of (pitiful) reasons it took me an age to get it together enough to enter events this year, and as a consequence I didn't get the full range of options that the more together rider had in December or January. That said, with a little luck (and late Santa duties from the No-Fuss team) I made it onto most of the peachy events I can get to this year - 4 in total.
I got very excited when my reserve place came up on the MacAvalanche at Glen Coe. I'm guessing that Bluegrass decided not to have the event in their European series this year (or maybe scrapped it?), but the event promises to be much bonkersness, which this year I have some proper hard core tyres to test on - Continental Kaisers 2.5 inch beasts. So far these have proved to be so sticky that they fixed themselves to the ground better than to the rim of my DH wheels and tried to rip the valve off my DH inner tube, so I am optimistic about their performance on the Red DH trail at Glencoe. More to come in the review section!
Found this image while excitedly checking out youtube for videos of last years Glencoe Enduro following my successful registration, that's me in the air!
Following this I then got on a roll and entered the Highland Perthshire Cycling Dunkeld Enduro. Not to be confused with the Scottish Enduro Series (SES) event at Dunkeld. This has been a peach of an event, although early in the season and therefore extra punishing for those who're still dropping the Christmas pounds! This year they have added a 5th stage so I should be well and truly gubbed by the finish as I recall both Ali and I having to admit to just holding on on stage 4 last year!
That's the two one-day (blind) events of the year, then I've managed to squeeze on two legs of the SES at Laggan Wolftrax, and at Tomintoul. I've not ridden events at either of these venues before (part of the allure) and actually have not yet ridden at Tomintoul before so it will be a voyage of discovery.
Now the reality of what I've done has started to sink in I'm realising that I'm going to have to jump on the hamster wheel (spinner) a bit more, and keep up the bus chasing on the commute in order to have any semblance of fitness and stamina for these events. 5 stages at Dunkeld at the start of the season is actually quite scary!
So - if you're there, come say hi, pick me out of the ditch and send me on my way, whatever seems most appropriate, and if you'd like to take part but need some support, then please do get in touch via the professional pages. Anyone on a coached enduro prep session who then enters one of the above events can receive a team RWR tee shirt and join team RWR (while stocks last folks!!) so we can all ride together for your first event.
Now, back to the hamster wheel - pass me the peanuts!
March 2016 - THANK GOODNESS I WAS SLOW OFF THE MARK IN JANUARY
Getting out and about much more despite the day job has still been hard, but I've managed it a good few times, thanks to a very understanding better half and some good friends making it easier for me. This has meant some good epic big days out on the big bike.
Riding the big bike (or resistance trainer as I like to call it) is always fun on the downs, but can be a bit of a low level discomfort in the nether regions on the ups, but its certainly a good route to stronger legs and lungs, which is what I need right now. The great thing is that it accompanies some good riding, and with understanding friends can be quite social (especially for them if they're sitting at the top having a chin-wag on their carbon hard tails while they wait).
Begging for more in the Borders
Currently I ache all over most of the time, and am so grateful that I was too slow to get in on the start of the SES season due to the illness that got me in this state in the first place. I now have a month until (once again) the Dunkeld Enduro and Glen Coe (MacAvalanche) Enduro happen within weeks of each other.
Following the winter strip-down, the bike's doing well, especially with the reverb attached now for infinite buttery smooth seat adjustment (long may it last). The last mountain epic at the start of the month just throwing up a split washer on the front brake caliper making some "interesting" noises when I brake (solution - don't use the brake).
So just need to get some more endurance training (ie pushing hard on the extended summer commute - it's spring now, that's close enough ) over the next month and I should be ready to not embarrass myself too much in Dunked - they put an extra stage in 'just for fun'.
Actually, thinking about that does make me a little concerned - I remember how knackered I was half way down stage 4 last year - it was almost a pleasure to stack it half way down and have a moment to myself (still got a decent time though!). Good job I just do this for fun!