Monday, 25 September 2017

3 Peaks cyclo cross - done.

See that happy smiley face? That's 'cos Simons Fell wasn't killing me. That was a relief. My coach said "it's no a running race", so lets bin the running and concentrate on the cycling and you know what, he was right.
To be honest I had no idea how I would do in this race and the night before I was very nervous, more nervous than I think any other race I've done. I just didn't know how fit I was, I've never done 7 weeks on the turbo, could I go hard from the start? Or should I pace myself round so that I could at least finish?
Add that to the apprehension about the bonkers start and would my bottle caching idea work and I didn't sleep well on 3Peaks Eve!
I had gone down a day early, this was a good thing; I could recover from the 6hr drive (massive sleep in a massive bed)  recce parts of the course, get a wee pre-race ride in and sus out where to stash some bottles.
This all went well, I'm a great believer in recce-ing and checking everything in plenty of time, I hate last minute 'faffing about' - check it and forget it.
Even so, restless sleep, up really early, big Premier Inn breakfast and off to the race. Sign in, meet friends, hand over bottles - for hand-ups where possible, and try to look calm (wasn't).
The line up is mad, stand in a place you think might be near the front a good half hour early, then watch as loads more push in til you're no longer able to see the front!
Then the start.
How to describe the start?
It's like 650 totally wired and hyped up cyclists all trying to get to the front, utter madness.
My coach had 'reassured' me by saying go as hard as you can right from the gun, get up near the front (well, top 50-60ish) and just hang in there for the rest of the race. Gulp.
Heart rate straight up to max and bonkers riding all around me, going from hard on the brakes to stamping out watts that I should only ever see in 20 second intervals. I'm sure there were crashes, there was certainly lots of colourful shouting.
Even with all this effort we still hit the first obstacle - a cattle grid, bunched up and there's some impressive track standing to avoid unclipping.
I'll not give a blow by blow account of the whole race, but Simons Fell was over without too much pain, the first descent was very boggy and I grabbed my first cached bottle with shouts of "well done Paul Masson!" from those who had been standing near my labelled bottle!
Loved that.
Picked up a nice wee group on the first road section, everyone worked well together and pretty quickly it's off the bike and onto the second climb - Whernside.
Another trudge, but as on Simons Fell, I wasn't suffering too much and even managed to pick off a few people throughout the climb, this was starting to feel good.
Followed a 'local' on the descent, dunno if this was a good thing, ended in a bog and had to run onto the main track. Maybe not do that again.
Second bottle hand up went well, until I reached down to my bottle cage for a drink a few k's later only to see that I had half a bottle cage and no bottle. A thirsty last climb then. Hooked up with a handy time trial looking rider i.e. a good windbreak, on the road to Pen-y-Ghent and between us we towed along a good half dozen other riders. Thanks guys.
Pen-y-Ghent climb was fine, picked off more riders, legs still felt good, rode to where you should be able to ride - 1x11 gearing was grand.
Dibbed at top, saw the time and thought 'jeez that's good' then proceeded to ride like a right punter on the descent 'cos all I could think about was 'don't crash', 'don't puncture' instead of just riding like a rider that normally rides lots of rocky downhills (like I live in the Cairngorms) duh.
Anyhoo, out onto road, catch a few more riders who seem quite happy just to sit in, but I'm there now so use my last few watts dropping them. Up ya.
So a strong finish leaves me thinking could I have gone a wee bit quicker?
Dunno, but even now, one day on, I'm already thinking of next year!
Massive thanks to my coach David Lines of Espresso Cycle Coaching, he told me what to do and it worked.
Oh and not forgetting all those involved in the race, the marshals, the gang that help pass the bikes over the fences, the bystanders that cheer you on and those that thought I looked thirsty and offered me up drinks on Pen-y-Ghent, all these people are awesome and reaffirm your belief that most normal people are actually quite nice!
Til next year...

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

3 Peakscx Prep' Done.

That's it done. 3 Peakscx prep over. A very different build up phase than last time, or any other race prep' I've ever done before.
It all started same as normal, long rides, short fast rides, some hill running, mountain biking for da skilllzzz and cutting out all the nibbles. Weight was slowly dropping down to race weight i.e. the weight I was 7 years ago (last 3peakscx attempt) and the running was feeling good.
Then disaster; whilst on holiday I dived off a high board into Lake Annecy and burst my eardrum. That hurt. Lots. Worse than that though was it affected my balance and exercising made it agony (raises blood pressure? Dunno) Sore though.
Lost nearly 4 weeks due to that silly little thing and started to panic. So much so that I contacted my friend Gary Macdonald to ask about training advice, he recommended his coach - David Lines (Espresso Coaching). Davie and I then had a chat about 'everything' and once he'd seen my background data and FTP results decided on a predominantly indoor turbo based training phase for the time we had left - 7 weeks.
Now, I'm not an indoor training sort of a guy (I mean, I live in the Cairngorms!), but with the amount of hours I had available each week and the relatively short time left I saw the logic in it, gritted my teeth and did exactly as I was told!
I borrowed one of those modern 'posh' wheel-off direct drive trainers, hooked myself up for power, hrm, on line training software, tunes, fan and towels to mop up the copious amounts of sweat and basically left it all set up to avoid any 'putting it off' excuses.
I had on average 7 hours a week available and my coach made sure every minute of that time counted.
Sweet spot work, threshold work, strength endurance, VO2 max, tempo, long Z4 intervals, short and nasty flat out high gear max power intervals, you name it, I suffered it.
And suffer I did, some sessions made me sick and some made me fall off the turbo when finished and lie down curled up in a ball making really bad noises.
It was brutal, but effective, FTP has gone up 'a lot' and I now have veins and muscles on my legs.
No running, no hill climbs carrying the bike, virtually no outside riding, every minute was dedicated to chasing the WATT.
Weight dropped off shockingly fast, I'm normally 69kg, I'm now 64. I weighed that when I was running marathons at 21. Wife says I look scrawny and weedy. Perfect.
Power to weight is now 'respectable' for a mamil. HRM strap no longer gives me 'moobs' I've had to buy new jeans and some of my once very tight lycra - 'that' Castelli top, now fits nicely.
New outfits ordered.
My Stigmata also went on a diet; carbon everything, lighter cassette, silly light pedals, Cross Boss tyres instead of those awful 3peaks only Landrover tyres and it now looks as lean as me. 7kgs, hope it survives.
Am I ready? Dunno, nervous as hell this time round, really want to equal my old time which was just under the 4hr mark, but who knows - no plan survives first contact with the enemy...

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.