Category: Uncategorized

New Bike!

A few weeks ago I said to a driver at work that I’d found a great route into work but it was cruel on my fancy bike taking it along the canal. He said I should get a gravel bike.

I googled one later. It seems it’s much like a road bike (or ‘racer’ as they were called when I was a yoof) but with a wider frame clearance to take fatter tyres, a more relaxed geometry, and a slightly higher crank (for clearance).

I had a look. Some of them were dearer than my tri bike. I only wanted a knock about commuter. I had a moan on Twitter and was told that gravel bikes were the latest trend, that’s why they were so expensive, I should look at Cyclocross (CX) bikes (the sport where idiots race through mud then carry their bikes at a run up hills that are too steep and muddy to ride) as it is basically the same thing, but not trendy, therefore loads cheaper.

In my usual obsessive way I went from never having heard of one to armchair expert in 24 hours. I decided the one with the best spec on the gears, brakes and brand name frame was the Giant TCX.

Then I thrashed eBay and Gumtree for a bike. The problem I had is Giant were most specific that my statuesque 5’ 6½” meant I had to get a Small. Hardly any to be had, and dear. One for £600+.

I saw one on Gumtree for £250, with better gears and spec than a £350 on eBay that still had a few days bidding left on it (so sure to go up a lot at the last minute).

It was in Bristol.

Of course it was.

He said it was in average condition. Everything worked but it had a few scratches. Sounds good to me.

I arranged to go and look at it on the Saturday, but then he pulled the advert on the Thursday. I was gutted. I did another thrash of the internet and confirmed I was going to have to pay a lot more for less spec.
I text him to confirm he’d sold it. He hadn’t! Yay! A lot of muppets had been hassling him over the bike so he’d just pulled the advert. He said they were giving him 20 questions about the scratches. “It’s a £200 bike”.

Hmmm, I’d been happy at £250. I said if it was the bike in the pic, and it all worked, I’d give him £230, consider it sold.

He said I could have it for £200!

It was a long, tedious drive, but the bike is perfect for me.

I’ve done some basic tinkering; cleaned years of built up oil off the chain and sprockets, lowered the seat, lowered the handlebars (put the stem under the spacers) fitted clip in pedals, adjusted the (disc) brakes so it now does stoppies, and pumped the tyres to their feeble max. On my tri bike the tyres are 23mm, 105psi front and 115psi rear. This is 40mm, 75psi and 85psi. So soft, wide, grippy tyres.


Job’s a good ‘un.

Oh, the other thing about these bikes is they have fittings for attaching mudguards! (How did that become a notable design feature?) So I can stick some of them on as well.

I took it to work. I can ride the first 5 miles off road, through the park and along he canal path (above). Which just leaves the last 3.8 miles of quiet roads.That’s the other thing about CX bikes, they have the gearing and tyres and geometry to be capable on the road as well as off it.

It is liberating. My tri bike you have to wear the kit, go like stink, and look miserable. I wouldn’t dream of nipping to the shops on it. It’s just not the right tool for the job, and it’s so expensive I’d be too nervous someone would nick it.

On my CX I can ride to work, nip the shop, or ride to the leisure centre and leave it locked up outside. It’s just a no hassle, do anything and everything bike. And because it’s not a race bike, not on the road, and doesn’t have race tyres, or tri bars even, I don’t feel the pressure to be going as fast as I possibly can. I can enjoy cycling again. Especially as I can now ride away from traffic.

Today, as a final bit of training before next week’s Outlaw triathlon, I took it for a ride along the TransPennine Trail (TPT). It’s a route of canal paths and tracks linked occasionally by short blasts on very quiet roads that stretches from the West to the East coast. I wanted to ride to the top of the Pennines. By road, Google said it was 44 miles. HA!

It’s a great route. Very quiet and with enough challenging surfaces to keep you from getting bored.

However, the signposting is rubbish.

I’d been out hours, got lost a bunch of times, and only made it to Stockport Pyramid. Google said I had another 2 hours to go. Then I lost the trail completely, so I came home.

This is how well is was signposted:

Screenshot_2019-07-18 Garmin Connect

That red line (the route I took) should be a single line from top left to bottom, then up.

Still, the bike took everything the paths could throw at it. I’ll buy the official route map and do it again after my tri.

Last pic; lost again.

20190718_130810 (2)

Happy days!



Unrealistic Expectations.

I’ve known for ages that I have unrealistic expectations. Whenever I come back from an injury I expect to be out of the blocks as fast and as fit as I was before. Usually injuring myself again in the process.

Today an idle reply to someone saying I was too hard on myself crystallised my position.

“I always have unrealistic expectations, then am miffed if I don’t achieve them first go. If I do achieve them I think I should have done it faster.”



That’s not the point though, the point is I’ve changed my unrealistic expectations. I wanted to do a sub hour marathon and a sub 10 hour triathlon. Wendy has been going on about how mad I am to keep punishing myself in a sport I don’t enjoy. (I hate the swimming and the cycling really bores me. I like the running.)

My only reply is that it’s a big challenge. As she rightly points out, there are plenty of running challenges.

After mulling it over for a few days I’ve decided on a compromise. I’ve got the Outlaw triathlon in 24 days, after that I’m going to take a year off triathlon and concentrate on achieving my running goals. Which I will actually enjoy. So I’ve lined up a bunch of races. The Warrington half marathon (on my doorstep, rude not to) in September, the Chester marathon in October and the Manchester marathon in April. I’ve put in a holiday form, if I get it I’ll be doing the Crewe 20 mile run in September as well.


*drum roll*

The Leeds Endure24 (24 hour running race) in July next year!

As soon as I get my tri done I’m going to get stuck into a running plan to get me up to speed for a sub 3 in Manchester, and I’m going to be building lots of miles for the 24.

Apparently about 15- 20 runners each year get the yellow ‘100 miles’ T-shirt. Guess what I’m expecting to do?

I can run 26 miles now, and for Ultra marathons (technically anything beyond 26.2 miles –a marathon- distance) there is a lot of walking/ running. It’s building up the stamina. I did the Ladybower 50 mile ultra in 2014, I’d only trained up to 40 miles so it hit me really hard after 40 miles in the race. I ended up walking most of the last 8 miles. I did it in 10.06. That was without the proper training. Also I’d been training run X minutes, walk Y. When I got there no-one was walking. So I ran it all until I couldn’t run any more. Always follow your training. My point is, 100 miles is do-able.  But I’m going to have to train right up to that distance.

The thing is, it’s a timed endurance race, there is no set distance, it’s as many 5 mile laps as you can finish in 24 hours. There’s only me putting an arbitrary distance on it.

That’s where I am. Somewhere between terror and excitement.

I don’t want to mess up my sub 3 chances with the 24 training, but if I can juggle both, that will tick a lot of my ambitions. Sub 30, ultra, 100 miler, 24 hour.

The speed and stamina will be transferable to tri when I’m done.

If you’re going to have a challenge, make it an awesome one!


In other news, Wendy’s insurance over doubled with her provider if she wanted to renew. We got it elsewhere. Today I got a text off the bank saying you’re overdrawn, we’re ripping you off. WHAT!? Went on to the bank website, we paid the £800 for Wendy’s new insurance a week or so ago, her old provider have taken out £1600 to renew. Without asking. Super. Wendy was on the ‘phone to the them twice tonight, both times they claimed they would send an email for her to sign to to confirm she was cancelling the policy. Both times they didn’t. They said it’s going to be 5- 10 working days until they repay it. Super. It wasn’t a direct debit, they just had my card details from when I paid for it last time, took it out without asking.

They said to Wendy that she should tell them about bank charges, but it’s not the point.

Apart from that irritation, all is well.




Eek! 35 days until the Outlaw triathlon!

My training hasn’t really recovered from that 6 weeks of lurgy.

I’m back up to marathon distance with my runs, I’ve done a few decent rides of 60 – 70 miles but no 100 milers, and my swim is still rubbish, done about 1½ miles.

On the positives, for years I’ve been trying to find a quiet route cycling route. If you want to ride 50 miles in any direction you are going to be on main roads at some point. A while ago it occurred to me that all around Warrington are quiet country lanes. I spent a two days sorting out a loop last week, then found an app where I could plot it out and save it (as something called a GPX file) then I had to find out how to transfer the GPX to my bike PC. I took it for a test ride, the bike PC acting like a satnav on my course, and apart from one busy crossing (which I later realised I can eliminate by doing the loop in reverse) it worked like a charm. 34 miles, mostly really quiet roads, with a few hills. I did two laps, (the second by memory) it’s akin to the Outlaw course. Mostly flat, wind to contend with, a few hills that obviously get repeated.

Screenshot_2019-06-21 Sports route planner UK Runners, walkers, cyclists - map your routes

That is the best training thing in ages. You really don’t want to get on your bike when you know you’ve got to ride around town centre or motorway roundabouts.


The other positive is my running.

A few times lately I’ve said “I think I’ll beat my Personal Best (PB) at X distance” and have.

Looking at it, I’ve battered my PB in every category, since May.

Screenshot_2019-06-23 Garmin Connect

Also, which it doesn’t record as a run distance, I beat my 10 miles PB on the tenth of June. 

I was recommending my running pack to two women on Twitter who wanted to run into work carrying clothes and makeup, they said their bags were killing them. I was used to pack running in the army before I got mine. Everything bouncing up and down and rubbing. By the end you’re all bruised with loads of friction burns. I got my pack for a 50 mile (ultra) I was running. It was a revelation. It just works. No pain, no bouncing, no webbing burns. Anyway, I recommended it, then got a bit nervous. Was it as good as I remembered?

I ran to work and and back (18 miles) to time myself then did a pack run on my last day at work. Carrying a full uniform, a change of running gear (for coming home) a flask, rations and ‘phone. My first pack run in years and years, and my first ever double run day. I liked it. Good training. I’ll be doing that again. And the pack worked a treat.


I still suck at swimming.


I’m looking to get through this year’s Outlaw, eat my humble pie, then I’m concentrating on getting my sub 3 hour speed for next April’s Manchester marathon. I’m also going to apply for a place in the Berlin marathon for next year. I’ve bought a book, Advanced Marathoning”, that walks you through the science, explains why you have to do what they tell you to do, then sets out a training plan. Apparently it’s gold.


In other news, I’ve been suffering with big energy crashes and just feeling weak after work so I’ve changed my diet to wholegrain bread, muesli, eggs, and such (instead of jam on white toast with loads of butter for breakfast and dinner) to try and develop slow release, steady energy instead of spikes and crashes.

The other great news is work have let me swop to a rotating 4 days shift pattern. I have the option to work my days off to make up my hours, but if they batter me with long shifts and I can’t train, I can take 4 days off at a time! At my works, overtime, at time and a half, is paid after 45 hours and your sixth shift is time and three quarters. So rather than working 5 days a week, I can make more money working 4 days one week, then 6 days the next. Then have 4 days off. I’ll have to see how it goes but it sounds perfect.

I’ve just swapped, I finished my last last shift on Thursday, start my new rota on Wednesday, 5 days off!

That’s not going to happen again, so I’ve taken all 5 off to train. So Thursday I did my pack run commute, Friday I did the dentist, then slacked off, Saturday I did a 68 mile test of my cycle route, today, Sunday, I set a new PB for a half marathon. Monday, Tuesday, while everyone’s at work and school, I’ll catch up on my swimming (and riding and running.

In a bit of live action blogging, just had a bad turn. I’m sat here with the window open, typing this. I heard a bunch of kids outside, not doing anything, just being loud and excitable, (it’s 22.37hrs) and I started panicking. In a few seconds it had snowballed in my head to gangs of kids running riot every night, trashing stuff and making life a misery. My stomach started knotting and I felt like I was losing it again.

I turned out the light and poked my head out of the window, it’s a bunch of Asian kids playing cricket in someone’s garden. Aaaaaaannnddddd, relax. 

I’d forgotten all about that flavour of loony. The mind is a strange and fragile thing. Wendy and I are often forced to reflect on the truth of the cliché that if you’ve not got your health (physical or mental) you’ve got nothing. 

None of the above training would be worth a carrot if I was to go loony again. And life would be a misery.

One of the white neighbours has just shouted to ask them to keep the noise down, the kids apologised and are being quite. Bless ‘em.

Right, I’m off to bed.



PS I’ve forced myself back to the swimming. On Monday I did a 2.2 mile swim in 1 hour 40. Terrible time, but the race cut off is 2.4 miles in 2 hours, so at least now I know I shouldn’t fail on the swim.

Today I tried for a half triathlon but it all went a bit pear shaped. Wanted a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile ride, 13.1 mile run. I left it too late for the swimming, only had 40 minutes in the pool, did a mile. It was cool and raining for the ride, but I was thinking like a runner, that it would be too hot for a waterproof, so I set off in the drizzle in just a thin, long sleeved top over my tri suit. By the time I’d done the first lap of 36.74 miles I was soaked, cold and miserable, so I sacked it off. I did the run at least.

It was good training, no matter what.

Wendy’s trying to get me to drop triathlon and concentrate on getting a fast marathon. She know how much I hate swimming and how much cycling bores me. But if I was good at it, perhaps I wouldn’t. There was a spell on that big swim where I actually found a rhythm, got my stroke right, and was gliding along. I was still slow, but I wasn’t fighting the water.