Soggy footpaths, frosty mornings, wellies and bobble hats!

Soggy footpaths, frosty mornings, wellies and bobble hats!

Last weekend Martyn, Luna and I layered up and headed out to explore the countryside. We started our adventure in a car park on the west side of the A286 on the South Downs Way near the village of Cocking.

From the car park, we turned west along the South Downs Way (SDW), on a wide surfaced track. As we climbed steadily pass Hill Top Farm, another 400m further and we were nearly at the top of the slope with sheep fields surrounding us, we turned left, leaving the SDW, passing a large chalk ball (one of several in this area made by the sculptor Andy Goldsworthy).

We couldn’t see much because of the drizzle, but on a good day you can clearly see Goodwood racecourse over to your left. Turning back around to survey where we came from the view over varied farmland was stunning, even in the drizzle. Walking into magical woodland we followed our directions “turning left at the next the three finger post turn left onto a wide chalky path.”

We walked further into the wood staying on the main track. The wood was alive with nature from various bird species, squirrels and deer. Luna was quite disgruntled not being allowed to pursue the deer.

Gradually the forest enclosed with tall spruce trees, after about 800m we reached an open area with hunter’s hideouts, not so hidden in the tree canopies.

Heading down a steep bank the path was covered in leaves and we were not sure we were on track, Luna seemed to know where she was going and soon enough there was a blue sign which indicated we were on track, well done Luna!

With our bellies rumbling we were now near our half way stop at Singleton and the Partridge Inn.

With beautiful beech trees to our left, spruce on our right it felt like something out of the Faraway Tree Books I read as a child. We kept wandering through the trees until our path popped out into vast views of farmers’ fields as far as our eyes could see. We took the path to the left down the farmers track towards a lonely isolated house.

Our path ran through Colworth Farm and then took a left back up through varied fields full of crops. We could see Singleton below and were excited about our lunch stop at The Partridge Inn. We followed the path down the right-hand side of a meadow, the path was steep and at the next stile Luna had to be carried by Martyn, as she was too big to go under the stile and too much of a wimp to go over it!

A steady march through the mud over the disused railway bridge, through cow fields until our last gate brought us out in Singleton. Finally the pub stop!

This dog friendly pub was a great find. With a big roaring fire and delicious sandwiches in front of us the idea of going outside to finish our walk was not

appealing…

We left the pub around 3.15pm with only 45 minutes of light left we would probably be finishing in the dark… little did we know the adventure that was about to unfold.

 

Walking down the little lane to the side of the pub, just after a river crossing and before the school, we turned left at a signpost on a wide track, passing a cemetery it was very muddy!

The path steeply climbed an open grassy field until we reached another wooden gate. This new open field had a wood to the right so we headed towards it and through another stile where sheep were grazing, with a Levin Down information panel on our left we were sure we were in the right place…

Our path descended down through black thorn bushes, as we reached the bottom we had a niggling feeling we had gone wrong, but where? Our instructions had stopped making sense and so we back tracked up the hill and took a different path, this turned out to be the off-piste route through scrub land and prickly bushes, a dead end.

 

 

 

Time ticking on we continued into a field with ponies grazing through a new gate and over a large grassy pasture the light was dusky and we couldn’t find a way out. Reaching the far side, google maps was needed to get us back on track! Martyn’s excellent map reading skills we found our path,  a sign post showed the direction to each neighboring village which helped get us back on track. As a double check, the path had a wire fence on the left and a hedge on the right, which was mentioned in our instructions. Heading towards the dark and mysterious forest with only 30% battery left we waited until in the pitch black before turning on the torch to light our way.

Counting my steps Martyn and I walked silently through the trees aware of the silence and stillness around us apart from the odd cracking tree branch, what was lurking in the pitch black? After 700m we entered a clearing and the eerie light from the moon cast shadows and made the trees look very spooky indeed. Looking back from where we had come was like looking into a well. Crossing the chalky path and on into the dark woodlands Luna was on high alert watching the darkness, ears pricked and aware of every sound and smell around her, she stuck close to my leg as if she could sense my nerves.

We kept going until we reached the South Downs Way; from here we could not go wrong. Knowing this section well from biking the views are incredible in every direction. In the dark we just enjoyed the peacefulness of walking through the countryside just the three of us, our road lit by torch.

This mini adventure right on our door step, was a cheap and fun day out spending time with the people I love in the fresh air and stunning South Downs. I would highly recommend a trip to the South Downs.

Training so far, wow it’s May!

Training so far, wow it’s May!

It is now the middle of May and I honestly don’t know where the time has gone! It feels like only a few weeks ago I was peeling on the layers and charging up light batteries ready for training in the dark.

These frosty encounters have set me up well for the summer, with over 2000miles in my legs since November I am looking forward to dry trails!

Since the Gorrick 100 endurance race I have been back to firing on all cylinders which is a relief after a couple of weeks of no power in my legs and feel pretty rubbish.

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Last weekend my long steady rides changed, the focus now is on staying off road and getting use to more resistance under my wheels. I really enjoyed exploring, the now dry, bridleways around where I love, finding some great singletrack gems along the way.

To increase my climbing I headed to the South Downs Way which runs from Winchester to Brighton, it’s a chalky bridleway with some great climbing and stunning views over the South Downs national park. Well worth a visit!

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Living below the South Downs national park I am fortunate to make good use of this middle section for training, I headed towards Winchester to climb Harting down which is a steep chalky rutted climb and then on from this Butser Hill a grassy steady climb which gets steeper in the middle before plateauing out. Both had me gasping at the warm summer’s air.

I covered 75 in total at a steady pace, which I am happy with and can build on. My fuelling strategy was a banana at hour one, slated peanuts in hour two, another banana at hour three and then jelly babies and malt loaf in hour four. Considering a banana is roughly 30g carbohydrate I still need to increase my food intake considerably.

As my nutrition has become a vital part of my training i have decided to take on a nutritionist to help me towards my goal of completing the Trans Alp! I will let you know how the new diet goes….

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Trans Alp – The highs and lows of training

Trans Alp – The highs and lows of training

Training for the Trans Alp is going well I have been working on my stamina doing long 5 hour steady rides where the key is working on my fuelling and also keeping a consistent pace. I am working on breaking the 100km in 5 hour barrier which is my goal!

There is only four months to go now which is really daunting and exciting. I have such a mixture of emotions as the Trans Alp gets closer, my fitness has improved and I feel stronger than I have ever done, but I still have weak days. Days when I don’t know if I can keep going and days when I question my motivations behind taking on such a challenge.

On days when I feel like this I find sometimes its good to just go and ride to remember why I love being on my bike and the freedom that comes with being out in the countryside on two wheels. Check out my latest training rides on my you tube channel and please subscribe it’s a work in progress!

Getting ready for a stage race is very different to anything I have ever experienced because there is a lot more pressure. Michelle and I have been working hard together to make sure not only our bodies are up to the challenge but we need bikes that can cope with big days of knarly trails and our heads can cope with day after day of keeping focused on being race ready. It has been really fun to have a friend and team mate to bounce off it makes training and nerves easier to deal with because someone is there who gets it.

The fun side of all this preparation has been designing our new team kit! It has been good fun and we are finally ready to give a sneak preview! What do you think?

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This weekend I am off to my first cross country race of the year. I am keen to see how my speed has improved, I know it has but as I have been concentrating on endurance it will be interesting to see how I can perform in a cross country event.

I will let you know how it goes!

 

 

The 100km training breakthrough!

The 100km training breakthrough!

Today was my long ride training day. I had checked out the forecast and it was sunny until about 11 and then predicted rain, as a time crunched cyclist I don’t have the luxury of being able to pick and choose so I can train in good weather. So I pulled on an extra layer and headed out towards dark clouds but with the sun on my back for now…

On long rides it’s as much about mental preparation as physical if your head is not in the game your body might as well pack up and go watch TV. So I always have a goal to keep my head focused on something other than the minutes ticking by.

My goal for the past couple of weeks has been 100km in 5 hours, after my race result on Saturday I had seen how capable I was of pushing my body further for longer, so today my aim was get over the 100km barrier.

Butser Hill

I set off at an easy pace knowing it takes me about 30 minutes to settle in and then I pushed on trying to keep my heart rate above 150.

When you’re trying to stay in a heart rate zone on the road it is pretty difficult because of the natural rise and fall in the landscape, however hard you push up hill when you get to the downhill fitness will decided on how rapidly your heart rate falls, I am pleased to say my fitness is really good at the moment and my heart rate drops really quickly as soon as I start going downhill.

After 2 hours I was making really good progress and had worked my way up a few good hills including Butser. It was half way up Lynch hill when the heavens opened and it started to hail, yes hail, with such force that it stung my arms through my jacket.  With nothing to do apart from keeping pushing on that is what I did, 20 minutes in and I was soaked through and now desperately wishing for a long hill climb to get warm! I decided to start making my way home (which was at least an hour away) and to maybe have a shorter ride, I could deal with rain but hail was a joke.

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As I made my way through the backroads I could see patches of blue sky in front of me and the hail eased off giving me a new perspective and I decided to take a longer route home, I was still on target for over 100km, I had been playing games with myself to keep heading for this target for example: when I got to quarter to I would try and fit in 8km to up my score for that hour. It may sound daft but this tactic worked.

After 4 hours I had done 85km leaving only 15km to go. The last hour was hard fighting into the wind most of the way I felt like I was being pushed backwards. Rounding the corner to my destination I had 11 minutes still to go but had ridden 100km I was really happy to have beaten the 100km barrier but didn’t have any energy left to push out too many more k’s and settled with 3!

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I am so happy with my achievement today; I set out with a goal and achieved it, even against bad weather and a head wind! My fuelling was good today and I have a new love salted peanuts in the same bag as jelly babies! Don’t knock it until you try it!

Thanks for stopping by. Please check out my You Tube channel for videos on training, racing and much more.

 

Back in the saddle

Back in the saddle

When my off season began I was really excited about trying new things and eating cake! I had lots of plans to go swimming, running and even a bit of sailing whilst I recovered form cycling. As with all plans some of these for one reason or another never got off the ground.

I did however try running. I used to run at school (way back!) and thought it would be an easy way to get some exercise. I found running really hard my first run, which was probably too long was 40 minutes of absolute hell! My shins hurt, my achillies hurt and listening to music i felt disconnected from the world around me.

I decided to try again, so a few days later I laced up my trainers and headed off this time my play list was actually motivating and I found myself running faster and even did some lunges too! Although my legs ached I decided this was probably normal for a non runner and carried on.

I have found it hard not having a reason to go out on my bike and have only been out with friends which was great a usually I do so much riding alone, it was nice to share adventures with others, this is something I want to continue to do!

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It was also nice getting out and exploring new places with no agenda, when training I am so focused on what my heart rate should be that sometimes I miss out on the enjoyment of riding my bike. It has be great to get this back and take my time and enjoy the views.

Looking out over Chichester

My coach and I have been working out my training timetable looking ahead to my races next year. It is going to be hard to fit everything in but I am determined to make it work.

So after a month off I am officially back in training! Not the best start to my training plan as im blown over by a cold second week in!

Ill keep you posted on how its going!