Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Isle of Wight Off Road Randonee

Getting home at midnight was not the plan. 50 miles cross country around the IOW would only take me 6 hours, lets say 7 for lunch and a few stops, so i will be back home before the sun sets.
And so i left home at a relaxing hour (9am) and caught the local train. Two quick changeovers later I arrived at lymington with the ferry awaiting me. Perfect, only 2 hours to get onto the Island from my front door. The day looked good, fresh winds and cloudy blue skies ideal settings for an outdoor adventure.
My route of choice was from the IOW Extremists Club website, over 50miles, 90% off road and designed for the very fittest of riders to complete in one day. Relying totally on one local persons interpretation i set off with a little apprehension holding my 6 pages of route details. Still, a couple of fellow bikers left me with an encouraging antidote. 'Just keep the sea to your right and you'll be back here' Great advice I couldn't get lost.
Down to Freshwater with a nice flat section then onto the golf course and up and up to the ridgeline. Spectacular views. After a double dip of steep downs and steeper ascents passing Brightstone Down. I watched paragliders whilst traversing across farmlands into Shorewell.
The next section blurs until i hit a monster hill taking me up to Hoy's Monument (Crimea War memorial) where I promised myself lunch - a packet of chocolate chip cookies and a lucazade.
After this enjoyable break it was onwards on a ridge to St Catherines Point, again being able to watch paragliders hurl themselves of the steep slopes into the sea. This is the southern most point of the ride and the sea was still to my right.
The going gets hazy for a bit. A highlight was passing some beautiful farmlands and lakes and seeing some llamas come and introduce themselves. Unfortunately this happy moment abruptly ended with yet another hill to contend with. With legs burning I reached another ridgeline - how many hills and ridges does the IOW have this is hard going with a constant stream of never ending hills, something I am not use to in the flats of hampshire. Thinking by now i would be heading back west I found I was on a NE direction and had no sea to see! I had seriously underestimated how long this would take. But there was only one way i was going and i still had plenty of time before dark.
And on it went. Good riding through the American Wood, loads to explore in this area on more less demanding days. A nerve tangling dash across a main road up past the airport through to another great wooded section. Some enjoyable downs only to be hit by another long arduous climb. By which time i had concluded i had a puncture. I had inflated it a couple of times pleading for it to be a very slow one to no avail. Happy to take a break half way up and proceeded to change my tyre. Thankfully i had brought a spare as it saves a ton of time. Back on the hill and breaking into a deep sweat instantly i reached the top to be greeted with a long downhill into Havenstreet.
Then i turned west, finally, heading home. First a slog up into Newport and discovered my tyre had come lose with my inner tube sticking out. A quick fix before a disastrous puncture. Difficult navigation through Newports outer suburbs and back on the Tennyson trail. The instructions say follow for 8km. It should read follow arduous trail uphill all the way for 8 cruel kms. But you do pass some glorious surroundings including Carisbrooke Castle and picturesque farmlands in the crimson evening glow Just when i had enough for the umpteenth time it flattened out and on finding the turning i was treated to a delightful long down through the woods it was fast enough for me to let out a few yells of joy. Damn, another hill going up. Through tiredness any hills now were taken in low gears and took seemingly a lifetime to top out. After praying not to get lost in these woods i enjoyed not only getting on the right path but another much needed adrenaline fueled ride down.
I was on the last page of my instructions and points of interest were gliding past now as i kicked into another gear. Crash. Getting my wheels stuck in a grassy rut i tiredly tried to pull my wheels out only in succeeding in taking them out from under me and down i went mainly on my legs and arms but took a right knock on the head which dazed me for a few minutes (thank god for helmets as it could off been a lot worse otherwise). Taking a few minutes to walk off my pain and fuzziness I pushed on using the adrenaline to get me to the ferry.
Thankfully the way was now easy a couple of lefts and rights and then on the cycle track to arrive in Yarmouth fully satisfied with the days outing. Hmmm, but is that the ferry just leaving. Yep and the next ones in an hour, 9.15pm. Bugger.
A Peroni and a curry sorted out my downbeat attitude in the local pub. Although if i knew what was coming i would of had a few more. First the ferry beer was £3 for a can. Then a 20min wait for the lymington train. A 40min wait for the Southampton train. And a delayed 30min wait for the Chandlers Ford train. A stark contrast to my morning no hassle journey.

Overall a very enjoyable epic ride on the Island. I think next time i would do this over 2 days to be able to take in more of the trails, towns and taverns.

Other thoughts are, it would be great to run this, maybe using a few more of the numerous footpaths available. And wanting to do the South Downs, can i do 65miles on 2 consecutive days? Hopefully I will find out later this year.

Map Route Route info = 53.5mi, Ascent 5560'

Monday, 2 May 2011

Pony Express New Forest Ultra Run April 2011

Getting off the train you could spot the runners, rucksacks, water bottles and tight clothing. A short walk took us to the registration in Brockenhurst. After a race debriefing I managed to go through my gear again and yet again (after 5 times the previous night) and managed to discard a few bits that I decided were not needed, mainly due to knowing now that there were 3 checkpoints with food and water on route. Onto the start line and a non-too fast start for 90 odd runners. For today we had over 30miles to navigate and for most they had another 30 tomorrow.
Setting off with the front-runners at a comfortable pace into the glorious surroundings of the New Forest. A little way in I notice that my backside was soaked and that my water bladder had a leak. So after emptying my drenched rucksack I consoled myself that at least I had decided to keep one 500ml water bottle and knew with the CP’s that I could get through the race. The route was marked well but many bits of tape and signs had been removed by unhappy locals (or maybe they were just trying to keep the countryside tidy?). This only caused one route problem up to CP1, which was fairly quickly resolved by following other runners in the hope they could read a map.
CP1 9miles 1hr22
Stopped and had a little food and filled up my small water bottle then set off in a good rhythm staying with a group of steady runners. After chatting to most of these. They had all done a ton of races and were mainly hardened club runners. Which got me both wanting to do more races but not getting ahead of myself I was questioning whether I was going at too fast a pace by staying with these guys. But the company was good so I stuck with it and after getting slightly lost again and losing a fair few minutes it was comforting to be with others. On a flat disused train track we really hit a fast pace where I should of slowed down but didn’t as I was in deep conversation with a women, Cleo, who was using this as a training run for a marathon race tomorrow? Hard as nails comes to mind. One day I might get my head around that.
CP2 17miles (8miles 1hr16)
Refuelling again at the CP some friends, Jonny and Anna, by pure chance happened to pass by while I was there. So after telling me I was looking good – and I was feeling good – I set off to literally feel my legs tire immediately. But I stuck with some runners and again got lost. After a long debriefing we set off up a road and came to the marked route not long after. Once back on track I decided not to keep up with these fast runners and slowed a little. Alone and in the heat of the day I was joined by another very experienced runner, James, whose pace was more suited to mine, thankfully, as we kept each other company to the end.
CP3 24miles (7miles 1hr12)
Somehow I had run too quick as we got to CP3 before they had managed to set up with water and food. With luck someone was on hand to share his dogs water rations and with only 10k left I was happy not to eat especially as my guts were not feeling the best. The next leg was a mixture of long hot tracks, beautiful riverside trails up the Avon. Getting lost in the middle of Ringwood and waiting patiently while 3 old locals tried to explain the best way out by giving us house by house instructions. Finally retrieving our maps we headed out thanking them but still unsure on the best route out. Once we found our way out of Ringwood the homestretch was on. The last 3 miles were a joyous countdown but we were reminded it was no picnic with a continuous stream of sties to crawl over. These obstacles sure do make your legs scream for you to stop. But stop we didn’t and the finish line came with mixed emotions. No more, happiness, ouch that hurt., pride. What next?
Finish 30.5miles 4hrs55 (CP3 6.5miles 1hr5). Placed 10th.
Amazing day and great organised event by xnrg. It wasn’t easy but it challenges you and that brings special memories.

A massive thanks to those who sponsored me. It does help knowing that you are running for a cause than just for yourself.

Now I plan for my next challenge. Look at my blog as I will keep this up to date with a few of the things I do.