Category Archives: Racing

The Qua

Just gone midnight and just back in from a superb wee training ride in Calderglen with just the beginnings of a thick frost and a few frightened rabbits for company. The Yeti had been struggling with a stuffed shock and a seized back end so its been in the shop and is now better than ever. It really hadn’t been performing like all the reviews said it should have and I was set to get shot of it, but now it’s on fire. Was out on Saturday with GT and Andy Cathcart and rode our amazing Qua trail, which in all honesty is one of the finest trails on the planet. To our surprise it was in great condition despite a week of rain, I suppose because it is clinging to a cliff so nowhere for the water to pool. Everyone was on form and the vision of GT in front of me swooping in and out of trees will stay with me for a good while. I wish I had a head camera to capture trails like these and the beauty of them being ridden in full flow….Santa, please can I have one?

To the edge

Just back in from a stonker of a bike ride with GT, down in the Clyde Valley. The weather was absolutely stunning – a clear, crisp winter day, but not stupidly cold, in fact at points the sweat was pouring off me. Of course, being the winter*, we were on the cyclocross bikes cutting through the mud and rolling around at a fair lick. GT was on form on the downhills and greasy stuff using some revolutionary tyres with knobs on them, while I struggled with the more traditional John Boy approach of worn smooth hand-me-downs that provided negligible grip at most times. All was swell though and I felt good until things got steep when it was off and running for me. The gem of the day though was a new and totally cheeky trail, probably seldom ridden by anyone other than its closest neighbour, the late great Colin McRae. It really was back of the neck stuff as the singletrack trail took us high above a river, frequently taking us to the edge of 200ft cliffs, with off camber tree roots and wet fallen leaves doing their best to send us to the abyss below. The adrenalin was pumping and the sweat began to pour despite the cold and the fact we were pretty much descending all the time. The narrow bars of the cross bikes at times were handy for squeeing between an overhanging wall on the land-side and trees on the abyss-side, but at times I longed for the reassurance of my mountain bike with suspension, predictable grip and excellent brakes. Still, what doesn’t kill us only makes us want to go back and try again! All that adrenalin and mental focus took its toll soon after when my meager breakfast and feeble fuel reserves finally died and I hit the wall, big time. Such a rare occurrence as I’m normally throwing fluid (Nuun electrolytes of course) and fuel (Clif Bars can’t be beaten) constantly on a ride, but I’d left home without a good feed, or a good stash of trail food, so I was on the edge and I was in bits. GT nursed me back for the final 15 mins and I made it home for an evening of refuellling on anything I could find.

Original Mountain Marathon

Just back from the 2007 OMM, the 40th anniversary event, held down the road in the Lowther Hills, by Drumlanrig Castle, scene of my ACE Race and Wan Dae events last year. In the end I wasn’t competing as my partner had realised it was his birthday party that weekend and fair enough was staying home on the lash. Anyway, feeling bad that my new AR teammates were all competing and were travelling the length of the country to get there I felt compelled to ride down there to see them at the overnight camp.

After parking up at Happendon Services I stupidly got on my bike and the problems began. The headwind was incessant and I was having to work damn hard to make any progress, so stopped briefly in Abington for sustenance before beginning again in the, now driving, rain. Shortly afterwards I got the thing I’d been fearing most, a puncture. Of course I’d left my pump in the car, so although I was able to fix the hole, I couldn’t get any air back in the tyre…

4 miles of walking/jogging later I got a bit of air from a bus garage’s air line, but it only lasted half a mile before I was back to walking. Luckily shortly afterwards I managed to flag down a passing car with bike on the roof, who pulled a pump from the back of the car and soon I was on my way.

Eventually after more than one spell of being barely able to turn the pedals on the flat because of the headwind, I made it into the overnight OMM camp, just as it got dark. Eventually after much to-ing and fro-ing and shouting of names I found Gary and John, then Nick and Warren. They’d had good days on the hill and the weather hadn’t affected them too much, but were now suffering in their mini Supair tents which flapped about in the wind all night keeping sleep to a minimum. Sunday was glorious though and they had a great time on the hills while I ended up helping a friend with the finish line commentary, cheering in the runners over the final kilometre and trying to spout out random info about the few names I recognised. Spent most of the afternoon chatting to Dougie Vipond from the Adventure Show, who were filming for the BBC. Thoroughly nice chap though will see how he is when we meet again as we both line up as soloists in the Strathpuffer 24 hour solo in January. This is the world’s only winter 24 hour mountain bike race and should be pretty epic if it’s anything like the last two years when the weather has been attrocious…

Training has begun in earnest…watch this space for progress reports

Edinburgh Rat Race

Wow, ok, running out of feeble excuses for not updating this more often, but lost passwords have caused me a few problems, honestly!

Just catching up from the Edinburgh Rat Race 2007, where I raced with the Aberdeen Asset Management team of Nick Gracie and Helen Jackson, the current British Champions. It was a real honour, though the pressure was on, as I was navigating and on route choice duties…

Saturday night went ok, though route choice probably wasn’t the best, as we missed a few checkpoints that closed early and there were queues at some of the others. I made a route choice early on and would have made a different choice if I’d taken more time to think about it. Oh well not to worry, but it put us 15mins behind Inov 8 for Sundays stage.

Sunday started great and we got a good 5 minute lead over The North Face and Inov8 but TNF were on a flyer and once we had a puncture they got away from us. Soon after we were caught by Inov 8 as we weaved our way through the South Edinburgh suburbs, towards the Pentland Hills and the heat started to get to us a little bit. I was sweating like a man on death row and was drinking Nuun by the bladder load, but I’d made it up too weak so it wasn’t being as effective as it should have been, meaning I began to cramp up on the orienteering run section. The next section was a disaster. I realised I’d lost the map of the Pentlands earlier in the day and had to try and memorise the whole of the next section. Unfortunately this didn’t go too well and we missed one of the checkpoints on the way up on the hills and though we collected it on the way down, we were penalised 30 minutes for doing them out of order. Thankfully in the end, we managed to avoid losing any more time and finished in 3rd place just 4 mins ahead of 4th, by the time our penalty had been added.

A great race once again and a pleasure to race with Aberdeen, here’s hoping they’ll have me back!

Racing away

Hmm, once again it’s been a while since I did anything with this site. OK, well September has been crazy. For some daft reason, oh yeah I remember why, we arranged for two of my Wan Dae Adventure Races a fortnight apart in September. This was somewhat testing and lead to the most full on month in a long time. To really punish myself I took on the planning and directing of the first ever ACE Race without Phil Humphreys in charge. Now, that really was the final nail in the coffin and I’ve had a headache for a week since… Still, everyone seemed to have a good time and they are demanding more for next year….My buddy Craig has been a busy lad and gone about setting up his own online adventure racing gear shop. Going by the name of it’s hopefully poised to make him a billionaire so he can share his spoils with me. Alternatively I hope it’s at least enough for him to pay the rent…. Good luck to you matey, it’s a competitive game but you’re smarter than you’re average bear.

Tonto and the Lone Ranger

Just returned from a rather interesting adventure in Poland at the Bergson Winter Challenge where I was paired up with Jim Mee in the Speed race, a 150km jaunt through the depths of a Polish winter. The adventure began with an epic journey through France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Czech Republic on day one with an overnight in Pilsen, home of Pilsner lager, before another day’s driving to Kowary just over the Polish border.There were 15 teams already out racing in the 400km Masters Expedition race, part of the AR World Series, while we were tagging on to the end of their event with 50 or so other pairs. The first impressions of Poland were not the best, with our initial base being in a rather rundown mountain town, however, once we got under way in the neighbouring ski resort town of Karpacz we began to see the beautiful place that this area of Poland is. The organisers first impressions of us were not the strongest either as we failed to produce the full requirements for the strange kit list and then as we sauntered along taking in the view we began to be asked what was wrong as we trundled into checkpoints miles behind other teams. The marshals soon realised we were not here to be at the front of the race, but I was on a mission to get Jim round his first ever Adventure Race. In the end we missed a cutoff late in the second night, just as it became my birthday, so we celebrated with a short sleep in a bush in a forest, before tackling some excellent rope sections and a 2hour bike back to HQ at Karpacz City.

Jim’s stamina finally wained when the Tabasco vodka kicked in at the after race party and he staggered off to drive the porcelain truck while the party continued on, fuelled by champagne given to myself and Russ Ladkin for our birthdays. The race was an absolute bargain, with the greatest expense being the fuel for the drive there, although if we were in the UK we could have flown for 50p each way with Ryanair like the rest of the UK guys did. It’s definitely a race I’d love to go back and do in 2007 with a crack team to take on the Masters race, although the xc skiing skills will have to be developed somewhat before that one swings around. A year seems to fly by so quickly at this time that I’d better make use of the ski trails in Chamonix asap.

Whisky Galore

The Tranter’s Round attempt was one of the best moments of the year, although yet again unfortunately the weather was against us. It had been so perfect and such a beautiful night that we were well up on the existing record, however, the weather totally changed as we climbed onto Aonach Beag, the first of the 4000ft hills, and we had to face increasingly dangerous winds and treachorous ice. Full story is on this Sleepmonsters report.Christmas has been and gone, and this year it really just snuck up and hit me between the eyes. I was working for Jon, Mark and Robbo’s Easy Drinking Whisky Company, plugging their wares in Jenners department store in Edinburgh, and before I knew it, it was Christmas Eve and the present buying hadn’t even begun. Thankfully inspiration came from somewhere, the day itself passed pretty quietly and now the New Year is around the corner. Looking forward to some arrivals from Iraq and Australia, just in time for Hogmanay thankfully. It’ll be a different one this year, for the first time I’m working, again with JMR this time pumping out Hot Toddies in Princes Street Gardens at the big ceilidh going on there. Should be fun…

Heb ‘the real’ Challenge

My love affair with the Hebrides is set to continue for 2006. After four years of racing in the Hebridean Challenge, I was set to take a break from the organisation of the team logistics for 2006, and look towards other races perhaps abroad. Events have taken a turn for the better though and instead of racing in 2006 I’ll be planning and directing the race in July. It’s something I’m really looking forward to and have been busy on the maps already. The race is already full which is unprecedented, and very reassuring, although the search is still on for a title sponsor.

So I am not racing the Heb this year, which led me to thinking about an alternative to fill its place. Well next thing I know I’ve been invited to join a team racing in the Bergson Winter Challenge, in Poland in February, the only Winter expedition race in the world. Jorg who I raced with in Denmark alongside Thure, back in October gave me a shout to see if I’d join him. My cross country ski experience is zero, but I’ve been training on the cross machine in the gym and will be heading out to Chamonix in January with the new job for four months, so should hopefully get plenty of practice in before the big race comes around.

Also planning another assault on the Tranter’s Round on 17th December, after discovering I still had some long distance running in my legs when I raced the elite class KIMM with Thure and felt fabulous despite ‘inclemental’ weather. Hoping to get under the 24 hour barrier for the first time on record, but it will depend so much on weather conditions and how much snow is underfoot. Best keep training then…

WARCy Adventures

Reading back through some of this blog I’m never quite sure of any time when I don’t have an injury! Somehow though I still manage to heal just in time for the next race, only to break myself again in pusuit of adventure. Thankfully the season is drawing to a close with only a few more races in October to go and then a chance to spend a winter in the gyma nd on the bike and doing the first proper training since back in 2002. Before that I have to master a new art…inline skating!At the end of August I joined Cotswold Outdoor for the inaugural Wilderness ARC World Series adventure race in Lochaber, starting in Fort William and lasting 5 days continuously over a 400km course. During the course of this week I had the most amazing experiences and adventures of my life so far and made some solid new friends. Unfortunately the weather was appalling during the first night after a glorious first day which took in a paddle down Loch Linnhe and traverse of the Aonach Eagach ridge in Glen Coe. The cold and wet led to many teams pulling out due to moving too slowly or having insufficient clothing for the conditions, as was the case with the rest of my squad. Luckily the decision to bail out was made before it got silly cold and one of the guys ended up going down with food poisoning so it was quite fortuitous in the end.

However, myself and Fred Yong combined with a couple of other guys including Peter from Denmark and were reinserted into the race at a kayak stage after only missing one mountain bike stage. This was followed by a 23 hour trek through the wilderness of Moidart, where I got to know Peter’s Danish friends including Thure who has now invited me across to Denmark to compete in a race in Copenhagen at the beginning of October. (Hence the inline skating!). The trek was followed by a 130km mountain bike ride out to the Ardnamurchan lighthouse, the most westerly point on the British mainland, where the angels of the light looked after us with tea, curry and a lighthouse living room floor! Ask me sometime and I’ll explain more! A further 6 hour kayak up Loch Sheil to the finish at Glenfinnan was all that remained to cap and incredible week, with so many funny and scary anecdotes.

Thankfully I was pretty much injury free for the whole event but am now suffering with hamstring tendonitis with only a week to go until the Mourne Mountain Marathon with Tim Lenton…One of these days I’m going to begin and finish a race injury free! Maybe.