Sunday, 28 June 2009

Just testing...

This is posted from my phone. Which is nice; I'll be able to send daily updates from the race. Not sure if I can post photos, though the blog editor only seems to work in HTML mode so I might have to do some swotting.

Did an intervals session today, only because I was too damn lazy to get out of my bed early enough to go anywhere. Five sessions @ 5mins with 2 mins rest between them all at 85-90% intensity. Pretty tough but more manageable and no lactic burn. Anaerobic threshold must be getting pushed back.

This thing has taken over my life, but I guess it's a healthy obsession, unlike the one I had for Heather Graham. No wait - that one's still simmering away under the surface.

Saturday, 27 June 2009


I spent today in my shed trying to eradicate all the creaks and squeaks and rattles which had been plaguing me for the past month. Bike ones, that is.

The Kinesis, despite being a fine bike, has been suffering from intermittent ghost-shifting for a while. I thought I'd solved it by replacing the cassette and chainrings as well as a new chain and new jockey wheels but it was back with a vengeance last weekend. I'd also noticed that there was a lot of play in the rear hub. Closer inspection revealed loose chainrings and a bottom bracket so worn that there was 3mm of play at the end of the crank arms. Cumulatively not conducive to clean, crisp shifting.

So, new Hope BB, strip-down and re-assembly of the rear hub, a tightening of the chainring bolts as well as a quick look at the headset bearings and everything is nice and tight again. A quick birl around the neighbourhood and it all seems fine.

It's only three weeks until the Transalp starts. My training goes well some weeks, but stalls on others. Last week I clocked up 22 hours in the saddle, but this week I'm only on about 6, although the purchase of some Lusso gel shorts has made them more comfortable than last week's hours. My head is starting to swim with all the things we have to get prepared before we head off two weeks on Wednesday. Hopefully the bike is sorted. The body will just have to do. I'll maybe get to the end of the hundredpushups program and I'll get a few more hundred miles in the legs but I'm not going to become radically faster. I can certainly manage two 8-hour days in a row, even carrying a great big rucksack containing every piece of equipment that might possibly be needed for every conceivable circumstance and weather permutation on a June weekend in Scotland.

The next big dilemma is which outfits to take. Do Trinny and Susannah have a website?

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Fit your Butt to the saddle

Stuart Conquers the First Climb

The program says 6 hrs followed by 5hrs the next day to "fit your butt to the saddle"

Stuart came up with a route round the Cairngorms 200Km and 4000m of climbing over two days. I think he was going for 11 hours in one day just to get it over with.

We started at Blair Atholl on the Saturday aiming to meet up at Glen tilt car park and leave at 9am. I slept in depsite the fact I was camping in Blair Atholl. Stuart had been pacing the car park questioning our meeting time and place until I woke up at 9:30 and called him. A quick drive to the car park and I was hurriedly getting ready while apologising for being such a plonker.

Bags packed and weighed down with enough clothes food and water for our trip we headed off up the old A9 from Blair Atholl. Its not comfy, the back packs extra weight make sitting dwon pedalling literally a pain in the butt. Stuart assures me that from his experience of a similar trip this will soon go away and we won't notice it. Oh how wrong he was.......

More immediate on my mind is that I realise I feel crap and Stuart seems to pedal away from me on every slight upward slope. Theres no oomphh in ma legs, the tank is empty, I am fecked before we start. Its role reversal from our last trip and Stuart reminds me its good practise for the Transalp when we'll both be knackered at different times and have to ride at the slowests pace.

Reaching the end of the road section we cross the A9 at the end of that "fast dual cariageway" and head into the hills. It starts raining and we pop on the waterproofs only for it stop raining as soon as we put the backpacks on. The butts are better now, Stuarts predictions seems to be working out and we optimistically start thinking about lunch at Glenmore lodge.

Its a steady fireroad type climb to start with and we make quick progress with a aquick photo stop at the top of our first climb. From here its a bit of a blurr I am in survival mode just riding keeping a steady tempo. When we stop I just want to lie down and sleep, I do lie down every time we stop. Stuarts is skipping along offering words of encouragement and Nuun Tablets . Part of the problem is I am dehydrated a combination of poor hydration the day before a 2.5hr road ride in the evening followed by a couple of pints. Its like a lesson in what NOT to do before a big day out and one that is being stamped in my head and body continually on this ride to be remebered for the Transalp. Nuun tablets I hope are going to allow me to get back to normal.

The riding changes into singletrack and we follow a fantastic route along the side of a loch. Its engaging riding twisting and turning with rock obstacles and the occaisional peat wheel sucking pit of doom. There is no better type of riding you have to think ahead all the time and we both get into our flow. Well Stuart does....I am still surviving.

The weather by this points has decided to play ball and relpicate the sunny warm conditions we hope to meet during the Transalp. If its raining freezing cold and there is snow at the top of very mountain pass of the Transalp there might be some Scottish winners this year as the Euros seize upo in the cold.

Popping onto the road above Ruthven Barracks we stop for a snack and some sunbathing before practising our road thru and off riding to Feshie Bridge. getting back on the bikes after a stop is a reminder of the pain in the butt. Its worse on the road where there is no respite of moving around on the bike but at least the ground is smooth.

From Feshie bridge we are back off road and after a short fire road section we are on some fantastic fast flowing singletrack. The sun is out and there is just enough wind to keep the midge at bay. Its the best riding you can get anywhere. By now we are getting closer to Aviemore/Glenmore lodge and lunch is looking more like dinner.

Loch Morlich comes into view and we are both on silent running, meaning we are tired and in need of food. With only a few kms to go we start talking about what we are going to order and the speed picks up a bit.

Scottish hospitality? Glenmore Forestry Cafe doesn't seem to have quite got the concept. Seeing the cafe we cycle quickly up the hill to the cafe and lean the bikes on the stand quickly congratulate each other on getting here before the cafe closes at 5pm. Walking into the cafe we are both fixated on the cake stand and at first miss the large sign which says the kitchen is closed. The woman behind the counter tells us they close in 15minutes and no they can't do any soup and really the impression we get is that they don't want to do anything because they want away at 5pm on the dot.

Disgusted we head down the hill to the cafe beside the campsite. They are the opposite of the forestry and despite having run out of soup offer to heat up some tinned soup and make fresh rolls up. So if you are in Glenmore avoid the forestry cafe and head to the cafe beside the campsite.

Refueled and somewhat rehydrated on my part we head out of Glenmore to our final destination of the day Tomintoul. As we hit the trails going out everyonelse is heading in for the evening. Its one last push onto Tomintoul.

Its fast rocky wide highland trails and we eat into the miles. The evening sun is out and its an idyllic night. At this point of the day it becomes a mind game to keep going and push on. We have several heart sinking moments thinking we have to ride foreboding tracks that go sharply up off into the horizon until we check the map and find ours isn't quite as bad.

The final section to Tomintoul shows a track following the river we have dry feet at this point. The track then proceeds to cross the river 12 times along the valley floor.

With wet feet we squelch into the best B&B in Scotland, well it feels like it. Argyll House in Tomintoul is highly recommended. Bike wash when we arrive luxury breaksfast choice and friendly hospitality. Its worth every penny. A quick shower out for something to eat and then we head back exhasuted for an early night.

Breakfast is kingsize, with special creamy porridge plus a full coooked breakfast. Maybe not the best choice but delicious. We decide that a walk to the village green is required to settle our food and work up to the day ahead.

Getting on the bikes is a sorry affair. The body is sore all over so even lifting a leg over the bike is a challenge at first but its nothing compared to sitting down. Every small bump is amplified by a bruised butt and the back packs are at their heaviest with full water bladders. Riding up the river Avon in the sun does make up for it in some way though.

We have just adjusted to riding Tarmac and sitting dwon when we hit dirt road and its like being continually kicked up the rear end in the same place, ouch ouch ouch ouch. The singletrack by Loch Builg is a relief in many ways and its tempting to go and sit in the cold water to numb the sore area.

At this point we meet a group riding from Tomintoul to Ballater to raise money for British Heart Foundation. We stop for a chat and find that some of them are not regular cyclsists which explains why they were walking the singletrack. We carry on and hit the major climb of the day. Its a challenging climb(those non cyclists will have a long walk) with the hardest part sitting down on all the bumps to keep traction. From there we descend down onto the road to Braemar with a slight hike a bike detour through the forest after our first navigation error.

Refueling at Braemar we are in good spirits heading for Linn of Dee and the final stretch down through Glen Tilt and back to the cars. Getting on the bikes is worse now and we pick up some ibuprofen to numb the pain for the next 6 road miles. it takes about 10mins for the pain to settle down while sitting.

The highlight from here is the fantastic singletrack at the op of Glen Tilt to the falls of Tarf. I last rode it on my Pace hardtail with 65mm of fork travel, it felt pretty extreme then. This time its lot easier less heart in mouth and more pure fun. We both take it easy with the Transalp only 3weeks away we can't afford to fall off.

Glen Tilt appears to go downhill to Blair Atholl but every time I have ridden it, it feels hard work and there is always a head wind. Stuart and I team time trial it down the Glen replicating the type of effort we will have to do at the end of the Transalp.

Back at the cars we congratluate each other and conclude we could ride again tomorrow.

The butt has definately been fitted to the saddle.

My butt is now the perfect shape of the specialized Phenom saddle

Tuesday, 9 June 2009


I once had a conversation on the tube in London which went something* like this:

Cockney Geezer: "Awlroight sahn?"
Me: "Yup. Good. Yourself?"
CG: "Nahhh. Worried abaht me 'ealfh, ain't oye"
Me: "Your ELF?! You have an ELF? What, er, seems to be wrong with it? Do you not need a licence to keep an ELF?"
CG: ....

I've been paranoid about my 'elf for the past six months. I haven't had a post-Christmas cold for the first time in living memory, but being a bit of a malingering hypochondriac, I'm convinced that every slight sniffle is going to develop into West Nile Hemorrhagic Fever and the Transalp would become a distant dream. I'd managed to convince myself that I'd developed some kind of exercise-induced asthma as a way to explain a mild but persistent cough which was bugging me after bike rides. Convincing my doctor was less straightforward and I somewhat overlooked the fact that he is a professional sceptic who was never likely to indulge my feeble bleating by giving me lots of performance-enhancing steroid-based drugs. Instead he listened patiently before prescribing me with a peak-flow meter and a grid to chart it on. When I told him about the Transalp, he decided a chest X-ray and an ECG might be a good idea too - best to be on the safe side, eh?

I had to measure peak-flow at rest and then one minute after strenous exercise. A discrepancy of >15% could be an indication of an asthmatic type problem. My readings were 720 l/m before and 700 l/m afterwards. Doc wouldn't buy this... He called me in for a chat about the ECG and the X-ray but only because the ECG technician had been worried that my resting heart rate was too low. 50bpm - hardly Miguel Indurain. The irony of this wasn't lost on me as I ran the gauntlet of grey patients smoking outside the hospital, all seemingly determined to accelerate their demise. Doc patiently explained to me that what had been troubling me was an exercise-induced cough.

This weekend had given cause for new alarm. I'd been feeling a bit crappy at work on Thursday and Friday, but I'd put it down to gorging myself on a kilo of cherries on Wednesday. I still managed 3 hours riding at Pitmedden on Thursday evening, but by Saturday I was starting to feel like someone had set about my kidneys with a baseball bat and I was peeing like a racehorse. This persisted until Monday with little sleep and a great deal of moaning. Things feel a lot better today and, all being well, I'll be back on the bike tomorrow, but I suspect I'll be hectoring the Doc again just in case I've got an exercise-induced kidney malady:

Doctor: "Yes Mr. Campbell, what is it now?"
Me: "Well doctor, I'm worried abaht me elf..."

*This conversation probably never happened, but why let the truth stand in the way of a long, rambling blog post?

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

A photo from the weekend

Originally uploaded by stuartie_c

Stuart looking awesome-ish at 10UTB.

Monday, 1 June 2009

10 Under the Ben.

Watch the video. I'll write something once I've finished building the workbench in the shed.

The next day...

Finished. Looks good too, hinged so it can be folded out of the way. Must get a vice.

Last Saturday was Ten Under the Ben at Nevis Range. Chris and I had entered Vet Pairs hoping to improve on 10 laps and 18th place from 2 years ago. Of course, "10 Under" is a bit of a misnomer. In the early days it was a 10 mile circuit and the race lasted for 10 hours, except you are allowed to squeeze a final lap in provided it starts before the 10 hours are up and finishes before hour 11. Saturday's circuit was also quite significantly different to previous years. The main lap was in fact 11.2 miles in length and they decided on a prologue lap which really went round the houses and weighed in at 17 miles.

I was very pleased to see that the spirit-crushing climb up Lazy K had been left out (it was part of the descent on lap 1) but in its place was a climb up one of the downhill sections of the World Champs course. They had also included some nice rooty, muddy sections which most people couldn't ride (bread and butter to me after a winter of riding in local forests).

I did the first lap and spent most of the time battling past slower riders to find my natural place in the field. There were up to 480 riders out at any one time and this made for some close quarters racing in places, particularly at the usual bottlenecks like the watersplash near the top of the circuit and the drop down to the road near the start. It took 1 hr 30 mins for lap 1 and as usual I've gone out too hard. I try to rehydrate while Chris does his first lap but I've got a bit of a sore head from the effort and the "Powerbar" carb drink is making me a bit naseous. This persists through lap 2 so I eat lots during the downtime and switch to Nuun electrolyte tablets. They have a dramatically positive effect and on laps 3, 4 and 5 I feel pretty good; strong enough to sprint up the first long fireroad section in the big ring.

We finish on 9 laps in 10 hrs 41 mins. 39th place out of 186 pairs which is OK considering it was a very strong field (our time would have won the Quads category outright!). I felt like I was passing lots of people on my laps but didn't really notice other riders passing me (apart from the usual Glencroft Rabble blur). Average lap time for me was 1:06:37 and my times were pretty consistent on the main lap. I felt like I took it easy on the last lap but it was only 2 minutes slower. I cannot imagine what one needs to do to put in a 50 minute lap like the fastest riders...

Calories: 5337
Distance: 99.19km
Height: 1940m
Falls: 1
Max HR: 193bpm
Temperature: 28 C

"You like numbers, don't you Gregory?"

"Numbers make the world go round"