Words: Paul Trimble
Have you ever experienced a ride or event that has left you feeling broken? Ever gone down on bent knee with your pale, mud-covered face raised to the heavens, and vowed never to enter the event again? That is, of course, only to find yourself an hour or so later wondering how you could improve your time, or what you could do differently? This is followed the next day by happily basking in the knowledge that, despite the mileage and conditions, you finished the event. Then of course you only go and enter the event again as soon as the opportunity comes along! It is certainly something that I am pretty familiar with.
Now, for some people what I am going to spout on about may seem pretty underwhelming. And it’s true, I am not planning on doing a trans-something, a solo entry into a 24 hour event, or even an attempt on a long distance route; all are something that a certain part of my brain would love to do, but the more realistic part of me knows that every challenge is individual. It’s just a rider against whatever it is they attempt to do.
These opportunities have become more common, with the likes of Trail Break, Evans and others offering events all around the country, for certain mountain bikers anyway. These rides are almost always on public access routes and are a great way of doing a ride in an unfamiliar area with some support. Personally I have always had a hankering towards the once-a-year specials: the wintry SPAM challenge; the (possibly) springtime 100km HONC; or my previous favourite the Marin Rough Ride on the Welsh marches, where you are never sure what time of year it actually is, even though it’s actually in June.
It seems that, give me a small arrow on a post to follow, mud, some big hills, more mud, and almost certainly inclement weather, and I will subject myself to a relatively high level of personal discomfort yet be as happy as a pig in, well, mud. Back in December, a mate mentioned a 50km route (in March, with 400 people) on the Welsh borders called the Wentwood 50 Goshawk Challenge, with the following description: “Regarded by most as a tough ride, unforgiving and technically challenging in parts, the Wentwood 50km Goshawk Challenge is an early season mountain bike XC endurance event that will test every area of your mountain biking training, skills, and fitness … and it’s all for local charity.” Well, what could I do but book myself a place?
So, back to the reality check. There will be a large proportion of bikers who will not regard this event as a huge challenge. I know this because they are the ones who normally cycle past me on the climbs. But I wonder what I could achieve if I actually manage to do some training for this event (because to be honest I normally just ride my bike, alone, in the dark, and the mud). And what type of training (or more realistically, damage limitation) can I achieve while working full-time and fathering two young kids? Then I thought: how about all those unused hours of the day? So I have set myself a bit of a personal challenge: to try and do some fitness training and keep a rough track of what I am achieving, while not affecting either work or family time.
Here’s my plan:
Firstly I am getting up-to-date with my tech and getting a smartphone, to use to track rides and give me a bit of motivation on mileage, ascents, and general pacing. Who knows, I may even do some Strava (shivers). Then there are my shift days: these give me a morning free (previously used to do DIY and the garden) and so are now a good lump of time once a week for a ride. For these I am planning routes in the Chilterns with lots of hills and mud. I just need to ensure that I can make it back to the car and to work in time for a shower. I am also planning on trying to do some commuting, or taking the bike into work so I can squeeze in a quick ride in my lunch hour.
Also, for a bit of exercise without the mud, I plan to go to the weekly lunchtime yoga class at work; I have booked myself into a “group cycling class” at the local sports centre held at 8pm (kids in bed); and I will maybe even fit in the odd run in the morning before breakfast.
In total there is the potential for a significant increase in my exercise levels, but as I am sure everyone knows it’s all about motivation. The main reason for writing this article is with the intention of sending an update at the end of my training with what I have managed to do. And hopefully with a bit of luck, no serious illness from my Petri dish kids, and maybe even a bit of roller use, I may just pass someone on a climb.
Feel free to use the comments section to possibly join in or just kick mud in my face.