Rest week

I’ve never been overly good with rest and recovery. My obsessive tendencies mean that I want to do the things I enjoy, every day. This means that I often end up overtraining and not making the improvements I am capable of, or those I want.

This and the fact I have remembered that I am capable of pushing myself further than I have been, because I allow myself to be defeated, by myself. Mentally, a lot of us do and I have been looking at this recently.

I find that I follow obligations and commitments well, rules and plans as well as structure help a neurodiverse mind. With this in mind, I am starting to work with a coach, Natalie Creswick teamheadset. I will put a link on the links page. This will help with structure and routine as well as ensuring that I am training in a beneficial manner, rather than just ‘banging out junk miles’.

Plus, a lot more yoga… daily sessions of a minimum of 15 minutes, again I will put a link to the course I am doing on the links page

Further to this, a couple of sponsors, in the form of Torq Energy and Sundried clothing and a new team, Team JMC. So, let’s hope for some actual races this year.

Seasonal greetings

It’s a strange time of the year this year. The U.K. and the entire world still in the grips of the pandemic. For many that’s going to create an odd and lonely Christmas.

I consider myself fortune in so far as I am living with my partner and therefore, whilst I miss seeing friends, I don’t actually feel that I ‘need’ anyone else. Working in the social care sector means that work and life have gone on as much as is possible; activities have changed, hygiene has taken on a level best described as paranoid and paramount.

My anxiety and stress has fluctuated a lot, which resulted in burn out and hence the reason I haven’t felt like writing much on here. Burning out leaves me expended of all non-vital energy and I need to make choices as to what requires my mental strength and the things which are less crucial at that point in time.

I remain optimistic for next year, races as planned, coaching sessions as well and my fitness is good for the off season. Motivation is currently good and I just need to avoid distractions in the form of a glass of wine instead of training. (ASD means that negative behaviour and compulsions are as likely as any other obsession, we are addictive personalities).

Anyway, I wish you all a happy Christmas and here’s hoping that 2021 will be a lot better.

Review in two parts

I’ve not posted a review in a little while, so thought that I would do a review in two parts: a trail and a piece of kit, I attempted to use trailside.

First of all, the trail: –

Yes. I rode this bit…

Haleigh Park, Befleet, Essex. Home of the 2012 London Olympic MTB course.

I hadn’t ridden this trail since 2015, when I was visiting friends and family in the U.K. whilst I was still living in Switzerland. Then I was riding on a hire bike and I had zero experience of UK trail centres.

From a spectator’s perspective, it is an amazing course; it’s possible to watch so much of the action without changing vantage point. From a riding perspective, it’s tough. I’ve ridden and raced on international world cup courses whilst in Switzerland and those were easy in comparison.

I currently live in West Yorkshire. So a four hour or so drive each way. So, is the payoff worth the investment?

It’s worth stating that the course is free, parking is inexpensive and the facilities, i.e. The Hub are very good. Obviously seating indoors and access to the bike shop on site are very restricted due to Covid-19. However, it’s possible to gain technical assistance and refreshment and the toilets are clean, well serviced and more than adequate for anyone not wishing to use a changing robe in the carpark (as I did).

I travelled down with my partner, who doesn’t ride, but supports me in doing so and is more than tolerant in regards to my obsessive behaviour and tendencies towards all things mountain bike related, also in the car was a friend, Ian. Bikes in question: my regular Cube Reaction C:62 SLT and his Cannonade Habit (e-bike).

The carpark allowed ample space and we parked next to a rather ratty Aston Martin (still an Aston Martin, but the paintwork had certainly seen better days).

There is an excellent skills loop, offering a preview of the type of trail features on the course itself. This, I must add, is rather better than other trail centres I have encountered a skills area on. It’s also a rather fun area just to have a quick spin around.

The course itself? It’s an Olympic course, designed to challenge the best athletes in the world. So how did two guys in their middle ages find it? The climbs are fairly brutal (this being stated by a guy who actually enjoys climbing!) the drops are steep and the chutes are terrifying. Rock gardens are unforgiving as everything is set into place in cement. Therefore, it is challenging. I certainly opted away from the black lines, riding reds and occasional blue sections.

We did find that in places the trail is rather in need of TLC; sections we bare and trail lining material was visible in many places. Additionally, on most berms, grip just wasn’t there for me in the rear, riding Schwalbe Racing Ralph Addix Speed Compound. Discussing this with my riding buddy, we were both of the opinion (opinion, we are not experts), that the berms would benefit from being ridden more and that lockdown a lot of wet weather had caused an ‘all season surface’ to deteriorate. He also stated that the weight and centre of gravity on the e-bike helped with traction; indeed I did loose traction in some places where he retained it.

It seemed a shame that a venue as prestigious as Haleigh was just let down by what appears to be maintenance. I also realise that trails require volunteers and that requires time, sweat and having the freedom to give both and I praise those who do the job, not just here, but at every trail and trail centre.

In summation of this section was the ride worth a 9 hour round trip?

If I lived within an hour or even a hour and a half, each way of Benfleet. Yes, undoubtably. In fact, I would probably look at coaching, which is available to help me in skills and confidence to do the sections which frankly terrify me. However, I live in West Yorkshire and there’s excellent riding within an hour or so, including the Peak district, the Lake district, Cannock Chase and Dalby Forest is calling me to ride and that’s a couple of hours each way. Plus, I’m about an equal distance to parts of Tweed Valley in Scotland. So, I’m not convinced that I would undertake the drive solely to ride the course again. When I’m in the area, visiting friends, it will be a place to go and ride, but otherwise, I have things which appeal more, closer.

Kit review: Stans Dart Tool

Small, light but does it work?

I’ve had this is small item in my emergency kit for a few months now. It’s basically a tyre plug for those of use who ride tubeless, in order to repair holes in the tube that are too large for sealant to seal. Basically, unless you’re cycling press, most people can’t afford to put holes in £50+ tyres in order to test a product. Therefore, this kind of item remains in your ‘get out of shit kit’ until actually required. Cue, approaching the end of Saturday’s ride and I hear that awful hissing sound…

..Confidently I yell ‘$*IT FLAT!’ and pull off the trail, root around in my jersey and produce the Stan’s DART tool, locate the source of the puncture, spin the wheel a few times to see if it seals. Nope. OK, I say, ‘Let’s try this’ The plug breaks off and becomes litter. (I pick up the litter). ‘Never mind, there’s two of them in a plastic tube for twenty quid!’ Attempts to use the second DART, which also becomes trail litter and also gets picked up…

So the tool designed to get you out of trouble in race situation, is effectively rubbish. Two darts, both of which failed to insert. Maybe the puncture wasn’t large enough, but it’s rare to get anything larger than two or three mm in my experience.

I am trying a new sealant with larger particles, which should arrive tomorrow. Let’s see if that avoids me buying a new tyre before the end of the month…



Plans, training and unpredictability

As I’ve stated previously, amongst the traits which people on the autistic spectrum have, reliance on a routine or plan is one of them. Myself included; that said, I have full comprehension of the fact that the current situation vis a vis Covid-19 has meant that things are rather different to a pre-civid world. I’m conscious of the need to maintain social distancing and limit travel, not really see friends or family etc. All fine, I can cope with this, whilst I like some people, I don’t want or need to be around the vast majority of them, I would much rather be in a small group than a large one, probably why house parties are my personal idea of hell, whilst a dinner party seems like a jolly good idea (plus, I like food!)

Now, I’m really good with plans, I build one for most things, I can build one very quickly. Without it, I admit that things either don’t get done, I get a lot less pleasure from them or they cause me huge amounts of anxiety. I am also reasonably good at what my employers refer to as a ‘dynamic risk assessment’, which means that I am able to assess risk as it might occur and plan around it to limit or reduce harm or incident: this is a vital skill when supporting people on the spectrum. It has on occasion meant that ‘I have seen the ‘stupid’ before I did it’ (not always, but hey, everyone one of us is a work in progress!) .

Anyway, Cv-19 has changed the world, at least for the moment; for how long, we have yet to determine and on this forum, I will refrain from comment on the political handling, or mishandling of a crisis. For me, I personally find queuing incredibly stressful, and now, we have to queue for everything. Apparently all shops are due to open in the coming fortnight and the public are being encouraged, or rather pressured to spend money in order to “kickstart the economy”. My thoughts on this are, ‘Great, more queues to buy shit I can get online without the queues.’ Ergo, I will simply shop online; we won’t be able to browse in the way we could before lockdown; nor for those of us who are sensory, will we be able to touch fabrics. We won’t be able try on items of clothing in store and I can’t be appeased with the promise of a pint or lunch somewhere for enduring the queues and crowds of people all waiting two hours to buy something awful from Primark.

The mountain biking bit: –

So, moving onto my own plans and training. As I have previously stated, I had Covid and frankly it kicked the crap out of me. I’m not fully recovered; I have occasional inexplicable breathless bouts on occasion. I am, however, doing well. My Vo2Max is pretty much back to where it was, my heart rate is good and I’m training and working hard. I had planned three races for this season: all endurance races, Hammers8, Exposure Twenty-four:12, and Torqinyoursleep. All of these were planned on the basis that I had fairly decent endurance and stamina and that I think that I can do at least reasonably well in these multi-hour races.

Outdoors but still indoors. At least I’m not scared of people coughing.

My training has largely been using a turbo trainer at home, my race bike has been having some repairs done (coinciding with me being sick) and is not being serviced and rebuilt. The turbo trainer seems to be producing decent results, although it’s generally hot and uncomfortable. It does mean, that living in a one bedroom flat without a tumble dryer, there seems to a constant cycle of bib shorts either in the wash or drying.

I had managed to arrange shifts to allow for me to do the Hammers8, an 8 hour race up in Hamsterly Forest, in County Durham. However, the event was postponed until the end of October and I’m not quite sure if I want to camp in the North East of England in practically November, it’s also a little too far for me to drive there and back in a day with racing for 8 hours, pre-rides, warm ups and all of the usual preparation and what is commonly referred to as ‘fannying about’.

Sadly cancelled

I have arranged annual leave for a week at the end of July for the Twenty-four:12. This was going to be my first 12 hour race. Yes, 12 hours (ish) of racing a mountain bike. It was also a chance to see family who live in Devon and Cornwall and for my partner and I we were very much treating it as our main holiday this year; we’d brought a new tent, various camping equipment was being replaced etc., I have also invested in a new and very shiny new bar light (I may do a review in a few weeks, once I’ve had chance to try it out).

As such we were both very much looking forward to a few days and a change of scenery. For her, it would allow her a chance to escape from the working from home ritual, meet some of my family (who I don’t see often, if they still speak to me, but all of which live at least a hundred miles away) whilst for me, a change and chance to do what I enjoy, hang around with other mountain bikers, see some family members, go camping and race. Which is pretty much as good as it gets in my mind, at least whilst staying in the U.K.

As we both have the leave booked and the hire car and cat-sitter, new tent etc., we may still try and find a campsite and go and visit, but it’s uncertain whether any will be open or not and whilst I am happy riding on my own, it’s less fun when you don’t have a clue where you’re going or having to stop every five minutes in order to navigate.

*Yes, I realise that staying home and staying safe is crucial, but the reality is that my partner and I haven’t left the house other than as sanctioned by the government since lockdown started, which frankly is showing more respect for the rules than the Government and it’s own advisers have done.

The unknown variable…

The third race, The Torqinyoursleep, is in Hampshire, near Guildford, which is not an insurmountable distance away, but still warranting a hire car and a Saturday – Monday. It’s on a Sunday and whilst the initial plan had been to do the 6 hour race, if there’s nothing else on for the foreseeable, I might as well put my neck on the line and do the 12 hour.

However, here’s the but, the event clashes with someone else on my team being on annual leave. Therefore, I can’t get leave. I have requested that my shifts are based so as to allow me to still get the Saturday, Sunday and Monday, but rotas aren’t arranged this far in advance and I’ve yet to receive any word on whether it is possible. Therefore, I am unsure whether I can race or not. I think that I will simply have to explain this all to my line manager and see if something can be arranged; obviously things such a hire car, cat sitter and such all need to be factored into the equation.

Of course, all of this assumes that any event happens and there isn’t a second spike in the transmission and mortality rate.