Thursday, 6 July 2017

3 Peaks Cyclocross is 'go'

After a 7year break, I decided it was time to have another go at the 3 Peaks Cyclocross race. I entered with a vague feeling of 'I'll not get in anyway', but started training - just in case... 
Then I got accepted and it all became real again, not just something to talk about. I just sneaked in under the 4hr mark last time, I want to do the same again. 

There, I’ve said it. 
My colours are nailed to the mast. 

Ok, face facts, I'm 51 and too heavy, not by 'normal' standards, but by Simon Fell carrying a bike standards. So, cut out crisps, biscuits, cakes and all that non essential stuff, easy, doesn't cost anything, it's just willpower. Next, up the intensity, I can't train big miles, I just don't have time in my work/life balance. Nasty draggy hills, steep just do-able hills, long evil loose gravelly hills, techy should be on an mtb hills and some 'on the drops' speed work all go into the weekly itinerary. 
Running: I've looked back at my old split times and I'm going to have to speed up on the carries. So, more hill running, it's not about the miles, it's about steep ‘blood-tasting’ hills and letting my cyclists shortened hamstrings know that they've got some lengthening to do. Ouch. 
The fun bit was treating myself last year to a new cross bike. The ancient Kona Jake The Snake had been brilliant, but was now only fit for mudguards and winter miles. Time to disc up and go all 1 by. With an eye to maybe having another crack at the 3 Peaks, I'd decide on a Santa Cruz Stigmata - stable handling, vibration damping carbon frame, discs ‘obvs’ and 1x12 with a super wide ratio SRAM set up to try and get a little bit further up Pen-y-ghent. Tubeless Stans cross rims and tyres to be decided….
Now it's early July, I'm on family holiday in deepest France and confirmation has just come in (had to make an exception about checking emails on holiday) that my very ropey CV has somehow been accepted. This is a long relaxing holiday, time to unwind, drink wine, eat cheese and generally muck about a bit with the family in the heat. We always bring the mtb’s for a bit of Alpine xc/dh fun, but this year I'm also packing the nice roadbike and a pair of running shoes. Not ‘training’ as such, just grabbing some early morning road rides and the occasional run when I can - and avoiding crisps. 
Wife says I'm skinnier and yes I do look ridiculous in the obligatory French swimming pool ‘budgie smugglers’ - cyclists tan an all. Suits me.
I'll hopefully come out of the hols in some sort of shape ready to start ramping up the pain through August. 

Happy summer fellow 3 Peaksers! 

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Coming out of the winter?

Oh for goodness sake
Oh no we're not...
Hell of a long time since I last posted, but that's modern life for you, somethings gotta give. To tell the truth it's all too easy to get out of the blogging thing.
So. Winter, bit of a damp squib really, never got going, with dribs and drabs of snow and a heck a lot of 'dreich' - shame it's decided to give it a really good go now, in late April, when trails need worked on and bikes need ridden. We skied a bit up the hill, but nothing really amazing until we went on our first family holiday to the Alps, which was, a lot. 50cm fresh on arrival, sunshine every day, no wind, beautiful pistes, lovely people, great food, I could go on, but I'll get too depressed. We've always conned our kids in to how good Scottish skiing is (ok, it can be good sometimes) but now the cats out of the bag and we can't not go again!

Not Cairngorm

The kids rode some of the 7Stanes in an Easter holiday trip to Dumfries and Galloway (an area well worth a visit) and what these guys are riding now never fails to amaze me. They love their riding and all too often it's me that is worried about letting them ride a feature whereas they just roll in and get on with it. They are at the fearless stage of riding, not yet at the age to worry about consequences - I do that - and everything is new and exciting and 'no problem dad'. Good times riding with these two, we're getting to the stage now where a ride is a 'proper' ride not just a wee pootle with the kids. In a few years they'll drop me and my work will be done...


Workwise, well, quite a lot. Trail work has been taken up a lot with Laggan which has had it's old Red route rather 'mucked up' (I'm being polite here) due to clearfell harvesting. I'm not going to go into this too much, as negotiations are still on going, but needless to say it'll never be the same natural feeling forest singletrack again. I think we will be working on it soon, so something rideable should be in place for the summer (whenever summer loads).

Not Happy family Masson

We also built a little something over at Fochabers, which promptly got rained on, a lot, like the sort of rain that washed main roads away in Deeside. It's ok, but the access track wasn't, which is getting beefed up as I type. Tarland which we built last year and had been weathering / riding in nicely got hammered too, but after heroic efforts by locals (neighbours with small machines, riders with handtools and our local top chap Chris Rogerson contracting and his big toys) is up and running again.

It rained A LOT this winter

Learnie on the Black Isle has been getting a bit of TLC recently, nothing major, just a spruce up for it's tenth birthday. Tenth! I've been at this trail building game now for fourteen years! and I'm still cleaning out ditches, cutting down trees, shifting rocks and raking dirt - albeit with a bit of a lunchtime nap these days. 
All these years and still digging ditches

Photography work has slowed down in the housing market, usual in winter, but I kinda get the feeling things aren't as good in the upper end market as they used to be, hmmmm. Luckily direct sales from the back catalogue are a thing now, strange when old pics pop back up and earn money! Even stranger for the people in them (usually mtb riders) who suddenly see themselves in print months later! New quite random areas of my photography business are opening up, I'll go with the flow and see where it takes me.
Pretty houses

Skiing legs got a rude shock in the Alps, telemarking at speed on the piste is hard work and after a week I had to adopt new strategies to deal with stairs! However, this has translated into good strong biking legs which have recently been given a further battering on the Aviemorons Mallorca training camp. This basically involved riding hard every day til we were all too tired to think properly and had to lie down. Base miles for us late starting Aviemorons (it's been a hard winter for road riding) but it's a start and just need to keep it going now through this late surge of winter into the summer proper which is hopefully just around the corner... 

Recovery pose.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

School hols are over.

Hols over, kit cleaned, van swept of sand, pics downloaded safe and sound and into a new term we go.
The kids summer hols flew by in a eyeblink; from watersports, to cycling, munro bagging, snorkelling, crab fishing, visiting family and even the madness of the Fringe.
I don't think there was a 'dead' week of "what are we going to do". We as parents survived to exit at the other end with deadlines ignored, inboxes full and clients to catch up with and reassure that all will be ok now. Such is the way of a family with two self employed parents.
Weather was 'Scottish' in its unpredictability, wetness and requiring of the usual insulated protective clothing.
The Outer Hebrides gave us just enough 'nice' weather to appreciate just how beautiful a part of the world it is. I have no doubt it will figure in our future again.
Some pics in no particular order...

 So, back to sorting out various projects both mtb and photographic, lots to fit in on the slippery slope to shorter days, not to mention trying to squeeze in bike rides whenever the sun shines.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Summer? What Summer?

I know we're a hardy race, but really, this years summer 'dreich-ness' is starting to wear a bit thin! Temperatures are often in the single digits at breakfast and there hasn't yet been a decent spell of warm and sunny weather.
See me, I'm grumpy.
Alright that's enough of that. Work has been behaving itself, got a lovely project at Tarland finished well in time for the summer hols. Great fun this job; mountain biking client, cracking wee hill, good ASDUG, exciting design and the team firing on all cylinders. I love working with Chris and his gang, they're all amazing digger drivers (obviously) but more importantly they're all keen and very handy bike riders. It makes a huge difference to me to have operators that really get into what we're building and want to ride it as they build it to make sure it works right. 
Happy digger drivers
Our next build is after the school hols and is back up at Fochabers where we were in the late winter / early Spring. Another pump track / jump run / feature rich skills trail type thing. Chris and gang on the diggers and rakes (!) Looking forward to it. 
Meanwhile in the background I am still busy with consultancy on a big job, which if all goes well will be quite an interesting build! 
Photographing houses continues to get busier, so much so that I've invested heavily into Canon tilt / shift lenses (google it) which meant a new body (6D) and a steep learning curve. I love my workhorse Olympus, but there's no doubt about it, if you're serious about developing in architectural photography, you gotta go with shift lenses. Geek bit over.
Me at work pic
A very strange thing happened a few weeks ago when Mrs Cycletherapy entered us into the local 'shop to the top' bike race to the top of Cairngorm. A 'fun' event, so we decided to do it on a borrowed tandem. However, I cannot cycle up a hill in a 'fun' manner, the need to hurt is too deeply engrained... 
I think we enjoyed it, the social afterwards was great craic. 
Me and the missus having fun

So, final images processed and uploaded, invoices sent, out of office email notice put up and holidays proper start tomorrow, We're off to the Outer Hebrides and just to be on the safe side we've packed everything from shorts and flipflops to duvet jackets and thick wetsuits! No 3G, no wifi, just us, the kids and whatever the weather throws at us.... 

Monday, 16 March 2015

A Busy Start to 2015

Personally I'm having one of the worst ski seasons I've had in years; hardly any runs open on my local hill, poor snow cover and relentless high winds. Yes, there have been the odd good days, but not when I'm around.

There is a silver lining to this though - it has been a great winter to build trails, with construction starting earlier in the year than is the norm. I normally don't like to start builds until April, just in case winter kicks in and we're halted mid build with snow and frost, but this year we started in mid feb'.

A cracking wee contract to ease ourselves into the trail building year, with a freshen up and rejig of the Moray Monster trails. A tricky one this, as revising old trails is trickier than a new build and there are a lot of people who like old rooty, characterful trails (me included) but in this case there were some stretches that were just too muddy, worn out and just not enjoyable anymore. So, a delicate hand was needed, with a three tiered plan of hand works, minor machine tweaks and then full rebuilds where required.

I was working with the usual team - Chris Rogerson Contracting and for me having digger drivers that I've got to know over many kilometres of trail building and themselves are keen bike riders makes life so much easier. They know what I want, they know how to build it and they know that if it doesn't ride right then it needs tweaking until it does - and that's without me saying anything!
Bike riding digger drivers rock!
We are heading off to Tarland (near Aboyne) next to build more jumpy, pumpy, woodsy trails - looking forward to this one - a good client brief and some new ideas from me and the gang!

As always, in the background, I am involved with the consultancy side of things helping new clients take their initial ideas through planning and funding to hopefully get more builds happening in the near future. Some exciting things on the burner, but as usual can't really talk about them here!

Blinking photography keeps getting busier too - this wasn't meant to happen 'til my late fifties - when I'm too crippled to build trails, but not complaining about the workload, good to be busy and every photo gig I land I learn something new. I seem to have hit a niche market of architectural photography, not quite the action sports pics I so love, but it pays well and action sports gigs don't.....
I'm also trying to develop my weakest skill i.e. portrait photography, an aspect of the art I'm not too confident with, but keen to work on. It might not lead anywhere, but I enjoy making myself do something I feel awkward with. Mind you, my latest gig is made easier by having a model that is easy to shoot.

Ann Vestano local artist
Riding wise, things are looking up: just started getting some 'base' miles in and although I had to miss the locals hot weather training camp i.e. Aviemorons go mad in Spain, I've got the bit between my teeth and am trying to get out whenever possible in whatever weather is happening. Grim, but essential if I'm going to try pinning on a number this year - not saying anything - just in case like.

Anyhoo, Easter next, family time and the next time you pop back another build update hopefully. 

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Into the dark months

October hols over and it's into the dark months that take us up to Christmas and hopefully the skiing season too. Hard months for trail building as less light per day equals less trail built equals less money! Thankfully there aren't many builds planned for this period (good planning that), what I do have is more design, planning and consultancy work - all office based, and photography work - mainly indoors (nice planning again) so should get through to the longer days aok. I always feel that once you're passed Christmas you may still be in the depths of winter, but as the daylight starts to increase things get easier. As usual can't say much about works in progress, but three lovely wee builds on the cards and a plum of a design job that is the start of a major project in the central belt.

Lewis was an epic trip, in that we arrived at the same time as Hurricane Gonzalo! Add to that the house we were renting was about as exposed to the Atlantic as you can get and we had a few sleepless nights listening (and feeling) the house being battered by storm force winds and torrential rain (kids slept through it). Even with dreadful weather the Uig peninsula was a beautiful place to be and it was no bother keeping our two young lads occupied with walks to see the full might of the weather hitting the cliffs and beaches - having a gorgeous house to retreat to helped as well!
the most amazing foam party ever!

cosy gaf
Just a geeky kit note; I'm using the wee Olympus omd em-1 these days, a family holiday is no place to drag around a hulking big Nikon and the Oly is small enough to stuff in jacket or wee bag, totally weatherproof (camera was washed down in the shower several times to remove salt spray) and with built in wifi there was no involved editing type nonsense, just send to phone or iPad, a quick tweak and off to Instagram the image goes! Can't see me going back to a traditional DSLR anytime soon. 

Prior to leaving for hols had to squeeze in a weekends work for Singletrack mag covering the World Endurance 24hr solo champs. I was sort of thinking of going over anyway, but to take the usual flash lit racers racing type pics that seem to sell well directly to competitors and sponsors.
This time I was going to leave the flash guns at home and try and capture more 'reportage' style shots, a challenge, but massively useful for my development as a photographer. In the end I shot 1300 odd images, slept for all of 4hrs and came away with some shots I was quite happy with, whether Singletrack use them is another matter! Can't publish any of the pics, but here's a 'B' roll pic I quite like. 
Again used the little cameras, omd and the ever faithful fuji x100, both cracking wee cameras to use, especially the fuji for candid moments. Both cameras were cranked up to high ISO's - 6400 at night and all images fine enough for use. 
Geek note here again, the oly has amazing image stabilisation allowing hand held at about a second, mental. Geek note over. 
Anyhow that's enough of that, I'm off for a run as this is my traditional 'let's go back to being a runner' time of the year! 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Into the Autumn

Well it's a new season (well it feels like it here) and time for a catch up. Autumn's a good season for me, the kids go back to school - I love them dearly, but very little gets done whilst they're off (home workers). So me and the mrs let out a large sigh of relief and get on with work and some more 'me' time! Which in my case means trying to get fit again (my sort of fit) with loads more riding, both road and mtb. Eventually the body remembers, big hill fitness returns and it's time to squeeze in some epic mtb rides before the dreich months that end in 'ber roll around.  Torridon is good even on a bad day, but we hit it with blue skies, warm sun and no midge, truly some of the best riding this year.


Local trails have been getting a good hammering too, with some old classics getting as much use as possible before harvesting kills them dead. I know it's a crop and needs harvesting, but even so, forest I've ridden trails in for nearly twenty years are scheduled to go.... 

going, going, nearly gone.

But, with the weather so good, it would be a crime not to get onto the local high trails before winter closes them down (at least on bikes!) so some quick up and downs combined with longer forays across the plateau were in order, sometimes alone, sometimes with like minded 'mountain' bikers. 

Coire an Sneachda 

Work has ramped up with a fairly equal mix of Cycletherapy and photo work. Trail stuff at the mo' is a mix of helping clients through planning applications, designing new tracks, trail surveys and a wee bit of trail maintenance training for various government bodies - I quite like this stuff, as I get older I like the idea of passing my info on. The photo work is progressing nicely with a steady influx of properties to shoot and something new to be learnt every contract; from dealing with tricky properties, to new lighting techniques, photoshop skills and streamlining the workflow through to the client. I love it! it's not quite the action shooting I thought I'd specialise in, but a niche I'm keen to develop and capitalise in. 


Anyhoo, that's enough for the now, it's time for a wee dram before settling into watching how the Scottish Independence results play out - whatever happens there's tricky times ahead up here!