…then first thing this morning you could have seen:
- prams, pushchairs, rubber rings, buckets and excitement
- two magpies (I know what they’re called)
- a robin (another easy one)
- a long-legged sea-bird hiding in the bushes (and which I didn’t know the name of, but neither did the bird, and we agreed not to mind)
- rabbits (unsurprisingly, seeing as I was at the Warren)
- no jellyfish
- a runner, of sorts, leaning into the slope down to the shore, making happy plans for the summer.
And, if you got up even earlier, you’d have seen two swimmers with ice-cream-faces in the water that hasn’t felt the summer yet, thinking about the Keswick tri next week.
So that’s the cyclocross season done, although with me doing only three races it went not with a bang but a splatter. I did get a bit of a bike-carrying opportunity today though, where the river had escaped, or perhaps it was the sea, and it all got a bit more triathlony than it has done for ages.
So 2015 is finishing much like 2014, with me being fat and happy. Although not happy about being fat. So, time to blow the cobwebs off my running shoes – Anniversary Waltz in April, and an anniversary race in October. I’ll do some thinking later on about how to join the dots between here and there.
So after a long period of fingernail-paced drift in this direction, we finally moved to Dawlish last year. In a big house, sized for noise, bikes, happy people and stuff.
And Dawlish suits us (until Threlkeld drifts nearer and all the short people drift further). It’s a ladybird town here in lots of ways, with a beach, and a bandstand, and a toy shop that sells sweets in jars as well as jigsaws in slightly faded boxes. There’s also the screamery that sells ice-creams bigger than my face, as well as cake, pies and beer <swoon>.
About the same time as we moved, here, the sea wall moved into the sea, leaving a railway-sized hole for a while. They’ve even nearly fixed it now. We can see the sea from bed, spy distant pirates with the telescope, and taste salt in the air (and wipe it off the car in the morning).
Sea-swimming off the beach is just a skip-and-a-jump away, and we have even been known to skip and jump when walking there with wetsuits on all ready. Swim one way hugging the shore and we see the far away bits of France that aren’t there, swim the other and we see trains creeping up behind children with buckets and spades. Don’t look down or the jellysharks will get you.
If I cycle to work (12 miles flat or longer with hills. Never do the hills, obv), then the coast path means I may only get passed by two cars. More often, I see no cars at all, because I’m on the train. Lazy. Get a grip.
Oh, and I’m meant to run too.
On that note, I’ve realised that it’s 8 weeks to Helvellyn Tri (paid for it now), 10 weeks to Dawlish Tri (rude not to), and 13 weeks to the Kirkfell race (which happens to be the day after a small-and-perfect wedding in Wasdale Head church, where me and Becki will make honest fellrunners(ish) of each other).
Got some training to do, and some plans to make.
It was somebody else’s idea to do a Dartmoor bike-run session, and while they subsequently decided to swim-run instead (ewww, swimming), I decided it was an idea with legs. Cold ones, mainly.
I suppose it’s the sort of thing I ought to be doing more of, with next year’s Keswick tri including Newlands, Honister and Latrigg. I may work out some resolutions next week.
When I left Belstone I was slip-sliding upwards on the tarmac hill, not entirely sure how this would work out. As a runner on the moors I’ve always tried to avoid the tracks, so I’ve been crossing them rather than following them, and never really looking at them as potential cross-bike ideas.
As it happened, it was a bit brilliant. The coldest day of the year gave stony tracks layered with ice, and icy ones layered with stone. All rideable (apart from that carry bit), and quite a lot of it glideable. Instead of cracking ice being ominous, this time the excitement started whenever the cracking stopped and I silently slid.
The military track stops in the col by Yes Tor, and from there to High Wilhays it’s a scrappy patchwork of granite lumps and icy clumps. This took more work than anything, especially now I was being glared at by sticks and mapcases, and knowing that I couldn’t possibly fall off in front of the judgemental multitude. The answer in the end was to go faster, faster, with momentum and adrenaline being my friend.
After stopping for a selfie (a shadow of my former self), downwards sort of accelerated the complexity that had previously been upwards. I did have a brief flirtation with being upside down (nobody saw), but the main issue was a pinch flat on a more-than-usually-hideously stony bit, bunny-hopping the granite drainage setts. Back wheel, so probably brought on by me eating too many Christmas pies (and I haven’t finished yet).
The whole thing slightly reminded me of a bad idea I once had when working at Wasdale Head in the late 80s, and I painfully wrestled my steel road bike up Styhead Pass. This time on the cross bike was how it should have been back then. Today might have been easier on a mountain bike. It wouldn’t have been such an adventure though.
Back at the car, there were decisions to be made. Cake and warmth? No. The temporary luxury of dry socks, and on for a run up Cosdon Beacon. First it’s a drop down into Belstone Cleave, which is the coldest place on the moor. And then some. Then up up up, on a good path that turned into a bad path and then no path, struggling through the tussocks long before I got the chance to struggle through the heather.
Walshes turned out to be a lot less grippy than cross tyres, which made life interesting on the straight-up-and-down navigation I’d gone for (saves reading the map). The weight of pies didn’t help either, where the thinner bits of ice stood on top of some startling-cold bogs.
Downhill was downhill, some blur and some slog, and back to the car for crossmass cake and for warming up that took until about now.
PS – re the title – check before you go.
It was absurdly beautiful in the early morning at Sourton Tor the other day. Can’t really add to that, except that I interrupted myself by taking some pictures on the way up.
It was murky in the Teign today, murky and cold (which is always the worst kind of murky).
Edging into the water, it took a stumble of faith to get my head in-and-a-bit-under, and from then on half my world was river-green (and the other half was being rained on).
Cold? Face-bitingly cold, and murky too, (which is the always the worst kind of cold).
Did I say it was murky and cold? I couldn’t see the bottom, and I couldn’t feel my bottom (perhaps because my hands were so numb).
Still, the face pain distracted from the shock of the slow, and the fact it was a short swim meant that it was also an everyone-stays-together swim. Becki was an added bonus to shepherd me, keeping me to the right side of the boats that were shivering in the tide.
Afterwards was made better by cake (there aren’t many places where you can wear two hats at once, dress in rubber and eat cake).
Murky and cold and fun, which is sometimes the best kind of lovely.
After detouring off-road on the cross bike with some mountain-bike-(ish) orienteering earlier this year, part two of bending the edges of my comfort zone was to actually race some cyclocross.
Wellington was first, in September; I’d fancied cross because of the potential, er, crossover with fellrunning. Wellington turned out to have about 20m of running between barriers… hey ho.
I did a practice lap and had to wipe the blood off after stabbing myself in the face with an overhanging branch, which reminded me of getting lost on the way to orienteering.
Loved the race though, especially once I’d remembered some of the training advice, such as looking at where you want to go rather than where the bike is pointing. First two laps, I kept on trying to wear a certain tree. Third lap onwards, my mantra was “don’t look at the tree Tom, don’t look at the seductive, siren, tree”. Miracle. As was my puncture saving itself for the last lap.
Someone said the course was fast and slippy, and I sort of half agree. My tyres stayed up this time, even if I didn’t.
Becki was supporting, if ‘supporting’ means laughing hysterically when I fall off. One or two slides round grassy corners were the normal sort of knockabout fun, but when I hit the sandpit for the third or fourth time, something went a bit more spectacular than I was planning.
I do know that sand is all about going in a straight line, so I didn’t consciously fling the bike left. That would have been silly, and would surely have meant that I would have done a sort of sandcastle-face-plant. And would have heard Becki trying to hold the camera still instead of rushing to help…
But, as my parents would say, “apart from that Mrs Lincoln how did you enjoy the play?”
Got back on, fell off a bit more, worked like a worky thing to try to get back up where I had been. The best races are sometimes where I cross the line with a big smile, a little bit of sick in my mouth, and maybe a tiny bit of wee down my leg. Tick.
I like a nice ritual (Catholic upbringing and all that), and all through the summer my reflective yellow winter running bib hangs on the end of the bannister, huddled against the sun, waiting for autumn to be in the air. It gradually gets covered in Stuff, before nudging its way forwards about the same time as the clocks go backwards.
Getting the yellow bib on is an annual declaration to me and the world (normally it’s only me listening though) that I’m still a runner. I don’t know when I became a runner; I wouldn’t call myself a triathlete – I’m someone that does a bit of triathlon. I wouldn’t call myself a fellrunner – I run on the hills sometimes, and I’m certainly not a racing cyclist, although I’ve raced(ish). I was definitely a smoker before though; the entry qualification for that seems lower.
Anyway, on with the reflective yellowbibness, and along the seawall with a moonlit shadow. It’s a plodding scrunch through the sand that’s escaped from the beach, but when I head towards the sea in search of firmer ground, it all gets even sinkier. A stop for a wee makes the sea bigger (and warmer for swimming in next year).
If I ran here all the time I might not notice the smells of seaweed and beach, woodsmoke and coalsmoke, driftwood and darkness. But I don’t, so I do.
While I was out I remembered that writing (and I’m not a writer either, see above) is like running. One foot in front of another, one word in front of another. Just get on with it.
Someone once told me that for effective training, I should always have a specific purpose for each run. But sometimes, I think that “going for a run” is quite specific enough.
It’s good to note that after some years of trying, I finally got round the Plymouth tri without my bike exploding. My time and position were mildly disappointing, but then again so were my training, so I cant squabble much about them.
I had the Saunders still in my legs, and a lack of swimming in my arms, and the swim and bike were just a hot and crowded waiting room for the run (“Mr Nausea will see you now”).
Will I race it again? Probably not. It’s not that I’ve slayed any demons – they just change shape and place – but more that I hated the run course so much. I always think a good running race route is one that you might pick if you were just going out for a run. Or, more selfishly I suppose, a route that I might pick for a run. Some sort of reason to it, some sort of journey. By their nature, fell and moor races tend to this (though some don’t, which may be why I’ve gone off the Grizzly a bit) but the best of road races and tris can manage it too.
The old course for Plymouth tri took you up Murder Hill (although my mother later pointed out to me that she used to push a pram up there when heavily pregnant, so maybe it’s not a hill at all), but then a brilliant stagger back along the coast path (no prams). The new one takes you twice up behind the Hooe Looes (Mont vent-Hooe), but is a dreary two-lapper with a draining out-and-back along Mountbatten pier. Maybe it was just too hot a day, but even my happy hat didn’t cheer me up on the run.
I think I need to get out on the hills.
For a few years now, I’ve had used a red cyclocross bike for winter training. It’s known as my cross bike to distinguish it from my beautiful red bike. The other reason that it’s been cross all this time is that the muddiest place I’ve previously taken it is the towpath, instead of proper mucky lumpy stuff. But, this year I decided to extend my comfort zone, and part one of this was taking the cross bike to do a bit of mountain bike orienteering.
Huge amount of fun, and didn’t fall off (well only a bit, on a sort of slo-mo steep muddy downhill where my front wheel ground to a halt in the deepest bit and the rest of me was too excited to stop). I got lost on the way to the event, and on the way back too, but for the rest of the time a home-made mapboard and a sense of adventure saw me right.
Roll on cyclocross…