So it’s Easter and spring’s meant to be here again and it’s that time of year where we all contemplate what we might like to aim for this summer. Personally, I’d like to say I’ve had a busy winter of cross country and cyclocross to give me a sound base for a good summer but it wasn’t quite like that in the end. Once the ribs had healed from my stupidity on my mountain bike my Achilles kept me out of the running for a few weeks longer. Once that cleared up I was hit by a recurrence of sciatica which I experienced a couple of years ago which was particularly annoying as it’s about the first injury of the countless many I’ve had over the years which has come back to haunt me. Mind you, it does help in recognising the symptoms and treating it early rather than seeing how it goes and ending up sidelined for months. But it’s not too bad now and it’s given me plenty of opportunities to spectate, photograph and just enjoy seeing others do well, particularly the juniors in our athletic club who’ve been fighting through the mud most of the season.
I don’t think I can recall a winter where the ground’s been so wet. I’m not particularly tarmac orientated and enjoy getting the fell shoes on, but sometimes don’t you just wish it wasn’t quite so boggy everywhere? It keeps trying to dry out but it only takes a good downpour to create those Somme battlefields again and it’s that kind of mud which just sticks. Even our dog, who’s always up for a run, turns her nose up at it and finds her feet transformed into four big balls of mud on the ends of her legs.
In our quest for a bit of respite we looked at what we could do for a week’s holiday this February half term. Easter in Majorca last year was great and we might have gone for something similar had impending GSCEs for our eldest not been an issue. So we hunted out somewhere a bit warmer than the Med in Feb and came up with a very late booking in Tenerife. We’d never been before but the 12,000-plus foot peak of El Teide sounded a good challenge and the temperature’s fairly stable year-round.
We opted this time to try hiring bikes for a change seeing as we’d be based in one place for the week as the cost of taking our own would have been similar anyway. After a bit of internet hunting and sifting through the various companies on offer we decided on Bike Experience Tenerife as the place to do business mainly due to their prices being a bit less than the others and a recommendation from someone who had seen their bikes in action out there recently and thought they were better than the ones they had hired for a higher price. It turned out to be a wise choice. Ferdinand delivered them to the airport for us and met us as we walked out of the terminal and there were four almost new Specialized Allez bikes ready to be ridden away.
The freedom they provided us with for the week was tremendous and we spent six days roaming around wherever we could and getting a good 6 to 8 hours of riding done most days. The bikes were returned at the end of the week and Ferdinand was there again, helpful as ever, and we felt we’d maximised our time when we reflected with him on what we’d done.
You’ve probably been to Tenerife and know more about the place than me, but let me just share the experience of ascending El Teide with you.
There are various ways of getting there. The tourist industry naturally wants to extract some cash from you and eulogises about the glories of going up on the cable car. That’s all well and good but we didn’t see it in action all week we were there because it was too windy. And as anyone who’s been up a mountain before under their own steam will tell you, the sense of achievement is as rewarding as being up there.
We set off from sea level one morning on our bikes and spent the next six hours riding uphill. We didn’t rush (it was a long way) and the scenery gently changed as we rose, as did the clarity of the atmosphere. At 1500-or-so metres we were in that crystal clear air you only get in the mountains and we pedalled on up into Teide’s caldera where the surroundings suddenly went from forested mountainsides to a stark world of austere beauty and geography lessons. From inside the caldera rose the peak of El Teide in the style of volcano which is what any child would draw if asked. Whilst the road from this point flattened out as it moved around the base of the volcanic peak it became the hardest stretch we encountered all day. The wind was agonising. We were right on our lowest available gear and still struggling to move, and those final few kilometres took as much toll on the brain as the body. We reached the cable car base station, which was very quiet, and passed on to the next car park from where the path to the summit leaves. The bikes were stashed away behind a big stone thing and we changed into walking shoes and yomped off uphill again. It was still breathtakingly beautiful up there with so many colours in the rock and sand and after about two and a half hours we reached the Refugio Altavista. This is a bunkhouse a short way from the summit where we had pre-booked to spend the night. The bonus is that this does away with the need to obtain a permit to reach the summit which is what any cable car travellers would otherwise need.
We spent a mellow evening up there watching a remarkable sunset, nipping out into the icy cold air now and again to take some pictures, in amongst a cosmopolitan mix of like-minded hikers. Seeing the shadow of the mountain rise across the landscape and finally into the colours in the sky was truly memorable. Then it was time for some food and sleep before a pre-dawn start to the summit.
The place was stirring by 5 o’clock with the sunrise timed to be at 7.40. This, we had been told, was something not to be missed and we enjoyed a steady start to the morning before setting out after most of the others into the dark with our headtorches. The sky was properly black with bright stars and Venus taking on a rarely seen clarity from lower elevations and as we marched up the slope, past the top cable car station, the orange glow of the sunrise gradually began to reveal itself on the horizon. The torches went off not far short of the summit and it was as close as I’ve ever been to seeing the perfect sunrise. It was very cold and windy though so we had the conflicting desires of wanting to stare at the unfolding spectacle and heading back down to the beach! But it was worth every shiver and tooth chatter as the sun rose level with us, and the mountain cast the most amazing shadow over the other side of the landscape into the distant haze. It was the most remarkable natural phenomenon I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. And all 12,198 feet of it climbed using our own legs.
The kitchen has long been one of my favourite rooms in the house with many a happy hour spent with some music on and the mixing bowl out. Cakes mainly. But lately I’ve been experimenting with making energy bars. I think I can identify when this urge properly gripped me. Nigella had a series on late last year which was backed up with her book Simply Nigella which I had as a Christmas present and on one of the episodes she was creating what she called breakfast bars. She has a special knack of making cookery interesting to blokes, if you know what I mean, and I soon had my pinny on trying to recreate the said fayre. They were good – very good – and considerably cheaper than ‘energy bars’ and I’ve tried a few variations on a theme since with interesting results. I’ve decided though that the trick is to divide the mixture up part way through and add various different final ingredients to each batch to improve the variety as I was finding that three weeks of the same tasting bars had a tendency to become slightly tiresome.
This will take you to the recipe, should you be interested - http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/breakfast_bars_20_09760
Cheaper ingredients can be used / may have to be used if you don’t live in London near a posh supermarket! Nigella doesn’t do Aldi.
We were extremely fortunate to drop on some glorious weather for this year’s Derwent Duathlon and were honoured by the presence of so many taking part in the Police Sport UK duathlon championship which we incorporated into the event. Over the years we’ve travelled all over the country as competitors to the various events we’ve used for not only the duathlon championships but the triathlon, cross country, track and field, marathon, fell race and various others, and have always been treated to nice locations and good hospitality. It was really lovely to be able to lay it on this year for all our colleagues and friends on home turf and treat them to a day out in the Peak District. Some had travelled up the day before from the south coast and had a relaxed evening walk round the fell course with us putting out the signs and markers and, even though some of them live in the idyllic West Country, they were impressed with the gem that is the Upper Derwent Valley.
Looking ahead to the rest of this year it’s been a bit tricky finding a date for the Wildcat Aquathlon which doesn’t clash with commitments of the day job, holidays and other nearby races but the 19th of June seems to fit and entries should be open this next week.
I’ve also had an idea festering in my mind for a couple of years about putting on a mini adventure race over 24 hours. Things are starting to drop into place as time goes by and a suitable base may soon be becoming available so I’m hoping we can do something in 2017. It will be a big challenge.
Back again. My blogging’s been a bit non-existent this summer so there’s a bit of catching up to do.
If I cast my mind back this dull autumnal afternoon to a time, six months ago, when the optimism of the summer was coursing through everybody’s veins the family and I took off on one of those holidays which everyone who enjoys cycling should do with as much regularity as possible. Majorca. It’s the first time any of us had ventured there and what a tremendous Easter week it turned out to be. The sun was out but not too hot, the island was looking beautiful and you’d be hard pushed to find anywhere as nice for a training holiday.
We employed the cling film bike packaging method described in a previous blog, and the holiday started in the arrivals lounge as we tore off the cling film, assembled the bikes, hid the remained of the roll under a bush close to the airport and rode off.
The north-east corner of the island was to be our base up near Alcudia and Christine had managed to find a cheap and functional little hotel on the quietest of coastal roads with a splendid view out to sea across the bay.
So it was then that each day started with an early morning run, either on the quiet little lanes or on the little mountain or big hill dominating the peninsula behind us. It was fell running with different vegetation to the Peak District and it gave the children time to crawl out of their adolescent slumbers and nip down to the shop for something nice for breakfast. A day out on the bikes followed and the late afternoon often involved a swim it the sea before finding something to eat.
Majorca really has gone out of its way to attract cyclists. The roads are good, the scenery is gorgeous and there are some epic routes into the mountains of the north. Cycles easily outnumber cars and courtesy from motorists prevails everywhere. No wonder Mr Wiggins and his friends make good use of it. Talking of which, should you go there, make sure you have a drink at Tolo’s bar at PollensaBay. It’s easy to spot: the one with the racking full of bikes outside. Inside you’ll find walls and walls of cycling memorabilia and, hanging proudly on display, are Sir Brad’s bikes from his victorious Tour de France and his world time trial championship of 2014. Go and discover it for yourself.
After a lovely week it was back to the airport where the cling film awaited.
As the summer rolled on there was plenty happening around our way. Our swimming club put on its now legendary river swim series, fell races abounded, those preferring the tarmac were well catered for too and I decide to make time trialling my summer cycling focus. I’d managed to pick up a barely-used TT frameset from a colleague for a price I couldn’t refuse which he needed to secretly shift on from its hiding place in his loft without his wife finding out. I’ll gladly help a mate out, particularly when it makes as much financial sense as this did and by the start of the season and after much experimenting I’d found a riding position I was comfortable with. Other commitments didn’t allow for much more than a weekly TT, but over the course of the early summer the seconds kept getting knocked off and I felt much more competent by July than I had done in April. So if anyone has any go-faster kit they are feeling guilty about having spent the family’s money on I may be able to help you out.
Our big trip of the year was at the start of the summer holidays this year thanks to the education authority’s stance on absenteeism for life enhancing experiences. We used our usual excuse to visit The States again – Christine’s sister living in California.
We’ve been enough times now that we knew what we wanted and going later in the year opened up some of the higher, snowier places to us. It was one activity after another each involving a lot of leg work and rewarding us with something special. A grand Canyon rim-to-rim-and-back 3-day hike got us started and we discovered the joys of American camping. It costs virtually nothing and it takes something very special to beat waking up and opening the zip to a view of the Sierra Nevada or the walls of some Colorado River canyon. With the added bonus of a brown bear encounter and raccoons nicking a packet of our biscuits one evening I would recommend it to anyone. It almost eliminates the accommodation costs of a holiday and puts you at one with this most amazing of countries.
We did find we were the only campers in Death Valley one night. It was still almost 100 degrees in the middle of the night and sleeping outside the tent did allow for the gentlest of breezes to be felt and also gave our lad something interesting to look at when he brought his dinner up when suffering a bit from sunstroke, that being a pair of desert foxes which quickly cleared up the mess before trotting off licking their lips. They’re used to regurgitated food as cubs but don’t usually get second hand steak burgers.
We spent the best part of a fortnight well above the 5000 feet mark. There, the air is so clear and the views are truly spectacular. OwensValley – that rift of almost 100 miles in a straight line with towering mountains either side – will one day host a training holiday. The valley floor itself is largely unremarkable from a potential training point of view, but start exploring the little roads up its sides and into the high mountains and there’s no end to the climbs available to fill a fortnight. Many climb up way beyond 7000 feet such as OnionValley where the road terminates at 9,200 feet. A lung-buster by anyone’s standards. Even our hire car was gasping by the top and from there we carried on for another couple of hours on foot amidst some of the most beautiful mountain secrets imaginable. Names like FlowerLake and HeartLake describe their shapes from above with others sounding as stunning as they look: SteelheadLake for example. We even passed a MatlockLake!
Also, in the summer, conditions allow for a walk up Mount Whitney. Christine and I did it one day from Whitney Portal around 8000 feet and made a training exercise of it to the summit at 14505 feet. That was about the only day we ended up in clouds, such was our luck, but it was rewarding none the less. Just to add to the fun we ended up in an impromptu race with a group of three lads who had been switching the lead with us for much of the day. Our steady continuous pace and their start-stop faster pace brought us to the last couple of thousand feet of descent at the same time which led to us all running down together. I say together, but that wasn’t really the case. Being athletes our competitive natures got the better of us and it was a full on chase back to the Portal. These twenty-something Los Angeles kids were more than a little surprised what a couple of relatively ancient Brits could pull off and, as we awaited their arrival at our imaginary finish line, their bold American congratulations were showered upon us. Then we enjoyed a smug cup of coffee!
Wales has been a favourite of mine for many years, especially Snowdonia, and we’ve ventured over that way a couple of times this summer for races in the Always Aim High series of triathlons: the Slateman and the Snowman. We didn’t get to the Sandman on Anglesey but that’s one for the future. AAH has made a fantastic job of developing these events and each has a twist to the usual triathlon format, be that the quarry zigzag king of the mountains section in the Slateman or the slog up and down Moel Siobad in the Snowman. They do, however, seem to find some very cold water to swim in which resulted in shortened swims in the races we did. It was just unfortunate because of the cold overnight conditions each time but I heartily recommend a weekend break to do these races. They’re sensibly priced, friendly and spectacular and there’s a short race on the Saturday and a long one on the Sunday. Christine’s looking at doing the full series next year after taking the veteran honours in the combination of the weekend’s events both times.
Snowdon reflected in the lake.
Bakewell again hosted L’Eroica Britannia in June, the massive sportive ride around the Peak District on pre-1987 bikes. Being only a few miles up the road from home I couldn’t let the opportunity to get the old penny-farthing out pass me by. Not to do the event of course – PFs don’t like hills, neither up nor down – but to go along to the showground and enjoy the atmosphere. It was a nice afternoon out but then my journey back home reminded me of the perils of keeping such a rickety old piece of ironwork roadworthy. Something felt a bit odd with the left pedal a couple of miles from home then suddenly the whole thing flew off into the gutter leaving me spinning along one-legged and frighteningly unstable. I did manage to stop without meeting the tarmac but walking the remainder of the journey must have left a few passers-by scratching their heads. Anyway, a welder mate of mine soon had it fixed ready for its next epic journey.
Talking of breaking things, who’s ever done themselves some damage doing something which age and experience should advise you against? Yes, that’s most of you then. The advent of the mountain bike has ensured A&E departments are kept ticking over at weekends and it was a few weeks ago that our 15-year old would-be stuntman son knocked himself unconscious and spent the next few hours with the fairies, clueless as to where he was or how he’d ended up there. Being only a short distance from home he was promptly sorted out but then I had an amusing encounter with someone I have known for many years as he was on his way to the casualty department at the Whitworth Hospital to have his damaged shoulder seen to. And how had he come by this unfortunate incident leading up to this? By trying to jump the same ramp on the river bank as our lad had done that same weekend.
My skewed sense of humour finds all this to be funny and much recounting of these circumstances followed. Then it was my turn, again.
I’ve managed a broken wrist in the past leading to a complete rupture of the extensor pollicis longus tendon a few months down the line leaving me with a floppy thumb end and also a smashed clavicle on another occasion. Both were beautifully repaired by the orthopaedic surgeons at ChesterfieldHospital but the reasons behind the damage involved the mind overestimating what the body and bike were capable of. So after banning our son from using my bike to further his stuntman career he suggested I take him and his mates to Greno Woods near Sheffield where a number of MTB downhill trails have been built.
Now, it’s a few years since I’ve done any jumping on a bike and even that was fairly tame stuff as a kid. I never had the bike for it in the days when we used to set a plank up on a couple of bricks to jump over a line of mates lying side by side with the one at the far end wondering if he’d be going home for his tea afterwards or not. But (and I put this down to my youthful outlook on life), I found the old flame of daring and excitement was still burning ferociously faced with the prospect of jumping a 6 foot gap. It wasn’t that I was showing off as the lads had all gone off on their own and no-one else was around, but it looked within my capabilities and there’s only one way to do these things which is to fully commit to it. So I became airborne for a couple of seconds thinking – or not thinking perhaps – that all was well. I returned to earth clear of the gap but, to use yoof-biker-speak, I cased it and came down rather more heavily than I should have, the bike taking one line and my bodyweight taking a different one a few degrees to the right. Of course, there’s only ever going to be one result at this point.
And here I am, three weeks down the line with slowly-repairing ribs unable, paradoxically, to do much more than cycling. Running hurts, swimming hurts even more and turning over in the night is only just starting to get a bit easier. My front wheel’s at the bike shop being rebuilt but at least I can console myself in the knowledge that I’m still not acting like the old man I really am and that, if I can avoid too many impacts with things harder than my body, there’s plenty of life in me yet. Maybe.....
When our friend Nicky asked if our daughter would like to go to the London Triathlon Show with her and her daughter it was a quick answer – of course. Nicky was going in her new capacity as BTF board member representing age groupers and it all sounded like a good day out at London Excel, especially seeing as the same show incorporated the London Bike Show and the Outdoor Travel Adventure Show. But here was an opportunity for dad to do too. Oh, and then our lad fancied tagging on. And his mate. So it was that a gang of six trooped off for the day to drool over the best kit on offer. My resolve was to keep a tight grip on my wallet so a cheap day out didn’t become an unintentionally expensive one.
There was plenty on offer but without the hard sell, as I imagine most people go there to look and get ideas rather than to come away with much in the way of hardware. The bikes were the big attraction, gleaming away and provoking thoughts of what might be with more talent and disposable cash, but the price tags proved a good leveller.
There was a lot of merchandise to try out too and endless samples of foods and nutrition bars, all telling us how the best of nature’s kitchen had been harnessed and compacted into a nondescript looking lump of brown chewy substance. It saved on buying dinner if nothing else.
Fancy bikes, though, can become a bit tiresome after a while, especially when the prospect of owning the latest bit of technical wizardry was never going to become a reality, and something like that would unlikely be enough to cancel out a mediocre level of talent. I’ve always agreed that it’s the body and legs pushing the pedals which are the main influencing factors in bicycle propulsion and not the saving of a gram here and there.
Moving around the show I found myself much more interested in the outdoor show where my imagination was much more at home and reality much closer to hand.
Doubling as a chance to take the weight off my feet I went to a talk by Doug Scott, the mountaineer, describing his exploits on Everest in the days before mass tourism took hold and another by a wildlife photographer whose passion and tenacity led to him spending hours lying around in the snow photographing hares and rewarding him with some absolutely stunning images as a result. These are the things which still hold enough mystery to me to keep me captivated. Greg Lemond’s question and answer session was quite good too.
And did I buy anything? Well, I was convinced by a gentleman that a bamboo t-shirt was the thing I needed as an all round comfortable addition to my wardrobe which, I have to say, it probably the most comfortable shirt I’ve ever worn with very efficient antibacterial qualities. I was also intrigued by the Splash Maps stand, these being OS maps printed onto silk cloths in full 1 : 25000 detail. The prizewinners at the upcoming Derwent Duathlon will soon be able to stuff their UpperDerwentValley maps in their pockets, use them as headscarves or bandages, blow their noses on them or even dry the pots – all things which are limited by the use of paper.
Investment in equipment since starting Peaklife Sport has been a steady project and this season’s undertaking was to see about getting some bike racking. It doesn’t come cheap and it’s not the sort of thing you can pop down the local racking shop for. When we were in Ecuador in November it was noticeable that bamboo was a widely used construction material. Big pillars of it equivalent to large logs formed the framework of many buildings out in the countryside and that had me thinking. It could look much nicer and more interesting than metal tubing, is light and, although slightly bendy, is strong and durable. It sounded like a good challenge.
Fixing them together in a way they could be assembled and disassembled easily ruled out the nice idea of using twine to lash them together so I set our local steel fabrication works on the job of making some brackets and I am very pleased with how it’s all shaping up. I like to think we’ve developed a unique brand of events and things like this just add that extra dimension to each occasion.
Its maiden outing was to the Derwent Duathlon (more of that later) and it performed splendidly.
You reach a certain age, or stage in your sporting life, when times become less important than in the days when the body was slightly more eager to please its owner and you could be at full speed after 30 seconds of running. Not that I don’t still enjoy a blast round a 5k or a time trial, but seeking out races with a difference becomes more than a passing thought.
This year’s police duathlon championships were incorporated into a very different race this year – the Peaky Freaky down in Somerset. We couldn’t let this one pass, so Christine and I took off for a short weekend down there. Cuts in police budgets have started spreading to the sports club the last couple of years (funded by its members, not the public, may I add for reassurance!) so we played our part in keeping accommodation costs down and booked a night at Fred Pontin’s Holiday Camp near Weston-super-Mare. That was an adventure in itself with little in the way of potential race candidates about the place. Fosters, Carling, Doritos and Butterkist appeared to be the staples in the camp shop, with Frosties and Fruit Pastilles stocked in favour of Bran Flakes and fruit full stop. Anyway, it was the race we’d gone for so, for £29 the night we weren’t grumbling.
The Peaky Freaky is organised by Freak Events and this race took the unique format of bike-run-bike-run-bike-run. The bike sections were flat, amounting to 60k, and the runs were up notable hills in the area totalling 14.5k. The weather helped the event along nicely and it felt like a little journey around North Somerset. The running shoes had to be carried from place to place and it all turned out well for us in the end, bringing back both the men’s and women’s police titles back to Derbyshire. Although I still wonder why events with a bit of a difference are still viewed so cautiously by so many. Surely we all need a break from the standard race distances now and then, don’t we?
I enjoyed it, honestly!
So last weekend was Derwent Duathlon number 3. We got wet this year, very wet at times. Nevertheless, there were plenty of happy folk there and you can read all about it on the race reports pages. The beauty of that race from my point of view is how the controllers of the venue – the PeakDistrictNational Park ranger service – leave us to get on with it. They’re happy to trust us and hopefully we repay them by being as unobtrusive as possible. I did hear some sad news from them though. Vic Hallam who, for many years, has built up and maintained the Dambusters Museum in the dam’s west tower and also made the batch of commemorative mugs for our very first duathlon is very ill which is why he wasn’t around on Sunday. I do wish him all the very best.
Hello, I’m back. It was a very memorable trip to Ecuador which you can read about in detail – maybe excessive detail – on the results pages. I think adventure racing must be a bit like having babies (get ready for the backlash from mothers around the world Karl!). It’s a long and arduous process with many ups and downs along the way, times when the words ‘never again’ come to mind but with a sense of satisfaction gradually replacing the physical scars as the body recovers. And then thoughts about doing it all over again.
We faired a lot better this time. The course was as tough mentally as it was physically and I learnt a lot not only about myself but about group dynamics. Whilst we all got on very well, I’m sure we all had our internal devils and demons to deal with. And as we were all reasonably sensible people, experienced at pushing our personal boundaries in different ways over many years, I found keeping such thoughts under wraps helped us through. We knew the end would come eventually as long as we kept progressing, and it did. It was a beautiful and peaceful feeling.
Knackered but happy.
I’m only talking of an 8-day event which we put ourselves through because we wanted to. Many people go through so much more for so much longer not through choice, and there isn’t always an end in sight. Some of us are fortunate enough that we can only try and imagine these extremes, talking of which…
We recently went to see the film Unbroken. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, it comes with my first rate recommendation. Derby lad Jack O’Connell takes the lead role of Louis Zamperini who was a 1936 Olympian in Berlin representing the USA in the 5000m. It was no great story of track heroism, although his athletic career was looking promising until the host of those Games started falling out with various other countries over some unfinished business from 20-odd years earlier. With the Allies on the ropes they called on Uncle Sam for a bit of help which is how Zamperini found himself over in Hawaii making up a bomber crew battling against the Japanese. The story follows the 6 weeks he spent in a life raft after their bomber ditched in the sea, surviving on very little before being ‘rescued’ by the enemy. His subsequent imprisonment and mistreatment is brilliantly recreated and Zamperini’s moral and physical fortitude above all the horror around him dwarfs the achievements of anything in the world of sport. It is a truly touching film, wonderfully concluded by showing genuine footage of him in his eighties carrying the Olympic torch at the winter games in Japan having found it in himself to forgive his captors for their treatment of him all those years before. And the old boy only died last year.
At Peaklife Sport we’ve been planning our 2015 races. We’re happy that we got the formula right for the first Derwent Duathlon and it will remain unchanged for its 3rd edition on March the 29th. It really is a lovely valley up there, although if anyone is still around who can remember it before it was flooded during the first half of the twentieth century, they may not agree. Most of us, of course, will not have known it any different and think of it as one of the Peak District’s havens. Good, then, that its documented history is so well portrayed on the information boards if one takes a trip up by the reservoirs at a leisurely pace then visits Vic Hallam’s Dambusters museum in the west tower of Derwent Dam. If you’re joining us in March it’s well worth not hurrying away, and taking an hour or two post-race if the weather’s nice.
We’re bringing the White Peak Triathlon forwards to June this year which will allow us to use much more of OsmastonPark. Apparently, the pheasants and partridges are easily upset later in the year which is what restricted us to a relatively small area within the park last September.
The Wildcat Aquathlon also remains in its original format which seems to work very nicely. Again, it’s a beautiful course in one of the area’s quietly dramatic places where no-one would ever know that Matlock Bath is better known these days for the chipped and deep fried maris piper and its vast range of marine accompaniments.
Enquiries have also been made into the possibility of holding a winter off-road duathlon too. Early indications are positive and I’ll hopefully be able to report back soon.
And now for my Peaklife Book Recommendation.
If, like me, you used to hold a particular Texan cyclist in high regard then felt a crushing disillusionment when those long-suspected tales of doping were finally confirmed to Oprah, then you may find The Race To Truth a rewarding read.
Emma O’Reilly, the author, was a soigneur, or general-dogsbody-cum-masseuse, on the US Postal Service team when it took the international cycling community by storm around 1999. Her job put her in the uncomfortable position of knowing that most of the top riders were on something more than could be cooked up in a kitchen whilst trying to maintain her personal ethics and integrity. Her turning of a blind eye to what she was surrounded by eventually led to her marginalisation and eventual departure from the sport she had come to love, and it served her no favours in her personal life either. But after many years of being used by journalists and lawyers, not to mention hurtful broadcast comments by the most famous of her charges, the truth – or at least a sanitised version of it – finally filtered through and brought her peace of mind. One of the most remarkable things is the author of the book’s prologue. I had to read Armstrong’s words again after the epilogue.
So, I’ll sign off now. Hopefully some of you might be along to the Derwent Duathlon when I should be able to put my new and unique transition racking to use. I haven’t actually got it and made it yet but the raw materials are on order and I’m sure it’ll be a talking point.
Just a quick one. Time’s been a bit short lately but it’s all been for a good reason – enjoying life between those things we all need to do to keep humanity ticking over.
We rounded off this season’s Peaklife Sport events with our first triathlon on the 28th of September. The weather really was perfect and OsmastonPark looked stunning so I think we can safely say we’ll be revisiting for a 2015 edition of the White Peak Tri but maybe earlier in the year. That way we can use much more of the park, as mid to late summer is a sensitive time when it comes to raising game birds. So look out for a June date.
We’ve been a bit preoccupied with our imminent trip to Ecuador for the Adventure Race World Championships too. This is the equivalent event of the race we did in Costa Rica last December. Our team remains the same and, seeing as we haven’t attracted the attention of a massive sponsor or been imaginative enough to come up with something better, we’re sticking with Peaklife Sport as our team name.
Whereas Costa Rica was full of friendly nature (so long as crocodiles and snakes were given the respect they deserve), it seems that Ecuador has much more in the way of things which might kill you in a long, slow, lingering way so we’ve been jabbed up this year against rabies, typhoid and yellow fever, and our diet will be supplemented by malaria tablets. Add to that the chance of the odd pulmonary or cerebral oedema up in the Andes where we’ve been promised a view from 14,500 feet during the first day of the race, then it should be quite challenging.
Anyway, the race is for 8 days and starts on the 9th of November. Anyone with an interest in tracking the race’s progress can keep an eye on the event website - http://www.proyectoaventura.com/6_203_home.html
Hopefully, when we’re back in one piece, I’ll regale you with our tales of derring-do or otherwise and we’ll have the dates of next year’s Peaklife Sport races too.
All the best.
Time for some more bloggery which is long overdue. Not that there’s a statutory duty to do such a thing, but it helps me remember what I’ve done if nothing else.
It’s been a great summer. Not necessarily because of the World Cup, Wimbledon, barbecue opportunities and the Tour de France but because I haven’t heard a grumble about the weather. Warm days, mild nights, no-one saying we’re all going to die of thirst or drown in the rain so let’s concentrate on enjoying the best of Britain for a change.
The Commonwealth Games weren’t bad either.
No doubt there will be plenty of folk who enjoyed the passing through of Le Tour as it meandered its way around Yorkshire and 6 miles of Derbyshire. Our plan to join the party involved dumping the car in Glossop late on the Saturday afternoon then hoofing it up to Holme Moss where we expected there to be something resembling a refugee camp or Glastonbury strewn across the moor. But we were pleasantly surprised - even a little concerned that the whole thing had been called off - as we marched with our camping gear through the evening seeing almost nobody to disturb the tranquillity of Longdendale and those dark moors beyond.
Arriving at the Holme Moss summit we set up camp as the sun dropped low and, with a French themed fondue savoyarde simmering away in the Trangia, enjoyed a beer overlooking Kirklees as it gradually lit up for the night as the sun disappeared. Our little encampment was one of only three or four similar gatherings and sleep came easily to the sounds of a mini festival down in the village of Holme.
Next morning, it was the gentle sun and the noise of a gathering crowd which brought me round. The place was being transformed into a convivial mass of cycling fans full of anticipation and colour. Our Matlock AC friend Jan had cycled up there after leaving home at 4am and had bagged herself a roadside rock originally placed there to prevent either parking or vehicles plunging over the edge and which doubled as a guaranteed head-and-shoulders-above-the-rest viewing perch. And it later served to show how humans can emulate puffins when it came to communal rock perching with at least half a dozen of us clinging on as the event passed through.
So, by the time the caravan of publicity arrived in advance of the race, the road was lined from bottom to top with thousands of people showing that we Brits can easily rival the French with our support. Our rock was also in view of the big TV screen set up in the home Moss summit car park which helped us keep track of the progress of the riders. The previous day I had seen a bit of the coverage – provided by the French, of course – showing captions like Chateau de Skipton. Amusingly, Cote de Jenkins Road later that Sunday showed how the incorporation of French into our language has become accepted given time and familiarity (cul-de-sac, fiancée, je ne sais quoi, etc) but that the reversal sounds completely ridiculous to us, viz. le weekend.
By half past two the excitement reached its peak as the first rider came into view along the narrow strip of tarmac cleared by the outriders. Then the rest followed and ten minutes later everyone was leaving. But what a spectacle it had been!
I wouldn’t like to speculate on the number of cyclists leaving as we were walking back down, but it was a continuous dense trail of riders passing us for at least an hour and that was just down one side of the Cote d’Holme Moss. It was bon voyage to the riders now heading to Sheffield and back to Glossop for us and our return to normality. Vive Le Tour and don’t leave it so long next time. I’ll be pushing 70 by then!
We’ve managed at least three Cumbrian trips this summer: two to race from the same place at PooleyBridge; the other for the Helvellyn Tri.
The first was A Day In The Lakes which is a long distance tri, or half Ironman in old money, but with a few hills en route. That end of Ullswater feels considerably warmer than the Glenridding area where the Helvellyn Tri is based and it was a glorious day. Being my first long race after early season injury I wasn’t sure what to expect but I held together and had a thoroughly enjoyable day out.
Less than a fortnight later we were back at the same site for our police championships but over the more familiar standard distance. This race meant a lot to Christine and me as it was being used as the qualifier for the European police championships which only come round every four years. We both qualified last time round in 2010 and had a great trip to Kitzbuhel where our race was tagged onto the ITU race. Bar and Irishman who had a couple of years on me, I was the oldest in the race back then so I was hoping more than expecting to qualify. But it went very well on the day with a lovely course around Lowther and I bagged 2nd place. With Chris winning the ladies’ race that was our summer holiday sorted out.
When the time came in August, we were off to Bremen in northern Germany. The Bremen Triathlon had been devised two years earlier for the very purpose of establishing a tried and tested race for the police championships. It wasn’t a patch on Kitzbuhel as a place (alpine mountains v industrial city) but it was good fun nevertheless. It was very “docklands” as far as the race route was concerned and Europe was experiencing the outer edge of the hurricane which had blown itself out as it crossed the Atlantic so we had a fair wind to contend with. Anyway, as individuals or team we didn’t really trouble the scorers but it was a great experience.
We had taken the kids with us too, so our journey home formed the second part of the trip. Having sent most of our clobber home with the rest of the team we kept the bare minimum with us and our bikes. It was about 500 miles down through Holland and Belgium and into northern France from where we caught the ferry home after a further week of cycling into a niggling headwind which was an excellent way for us all to see the flatlands and experience cycling in countries where cyclists seem to have the right of way over absolutely everything.
Our final trip to Cumbria for the Helvellyn Tri was for a long weekend when the weather window was at its best. Race day began with a mysterious mist floating above the surface of Ullswater which was soon banished by the sun which then blessed the rest of the day. A coincidental passing of the two Lancaster bombers - one being the visiting Canadian one – doing the rounds of the country was a fantastic sight near Rydal. Then the ascent of Helvellyn and the view from the top in the stillest of conditions really rounded off a very memorable day. 13 minutes seemed to have evaporated since I last did it a few years ago but I can’t grumble.
Amongst all this we put on the Wildcat Aquathlon while the weather was still hot and planned our forthcoming inaugural White Peak Triathlon.
This will be at OsmastonPark near Ashbourne and, if the weather is kind to us, offers some beautiful limestone scenery out on the bike course and the use of a very pretty park for the swim and run. The run route keeps being tweaked as allowances have had to be made for the thousands of game birds which live there. I never realised they were such sensitive things, or perhaps it’s the keepers, beaters and shooters who see something in them which I don’t. But we all have to co-exist for a few hours and hopefully they’ll look like lovely birds to us and we’ll look like lovely sportspeople to them and not the sportspeople they will encounter in a few months to whom they owe their very existence.
Our next “biggie” is in November. After such an amazing experience at the Adventure Racing World Championships last year in Costa Rica it didn’t take us long to accept the invitation from our friends Wendy and Jo Inge to join them again this year. Ecuador this time……….I’ll let you know how we go on.
Before signing off I must briefly relay our Great Kinder Beer Barrel Race experience. Scroll back a few entries and you’ll be able to read what the event’s about. This year we took a team of 8 from Matlock AC running under the name Gladioli in honour of those now too long in the tooth to keep putting themselves through this annual ritual of pain. Only two of us were GKBBR veterans and the other 6 put in a tremendous effort to bring us home in first place. The competition was not quite as hot as anticipated due to the banning of the Dark Peak Fell Runners team whose ungentlemanly conduct two years previously had jeopardised the future of the race, hence its absence in 2013, but we still had to put the work in as it’s run on a time trial basis with the results only being known after the last finisher crosses the line. It was a hell of a day out and I know of eight blokes who are already looking forward to next year.
(Our winnings minus the barrel which we shared with the other teams)
What do you buy the man who has everything? Not that I have anything close to everything, but the considerably-better-half and I have taken to buying race entries as Christmas or birthday presents in recent times. It’s generally been very well received and last Christmas an entry to The Pig Duathlon came down the chimney. This new ultra distance event in North Wales set me thinking about long race preparation so the Edale Skyline seemed a local obvious choice to force me into what I hoped would be a suitable training regime. But it was not to be. I soon found myself in mid-March with sciatica – the cause a bit of a mystery – and an undisguisable limp. Cycling was about the best I could manage in a low gear, so things were looking doubtful for The Pig. The Skyline didn’t happen for me, which was a shame seeing as it was a beautiful day, so the long slog of repair and recovery was the pattern for the spring.
Anyway, onto what spring is all about. The season of optimism and planning always makes for a relief after the winter and what seemed like the first weekend of spring to me happily coincided with the date of the Derwent Duathlon. For those who were there, I hope you’ll agree it was a smashing day and the full race report is elsewhere on the website. It was a pity that Derbyshire County Council hadn’t quite completed the road repairs in the UpperDerwentValley and that the rhododendron removal project had trashed the verges and left the cycle course looking and feeling a bit sorry for itself, but hopefully it will all be nice for next year and bunny-hopping potholes will not be necessary.
For Easter this year we took a trip up to Scotland. It’s been a while since we visited the west side and I’d almost forgotten how beautiful it can be up there given some decent weather. Christine, of course, managed to pull in a fell race in Cumbria on the way up and another at Rivington Pike on the way back, leaving the whole week in between to explore and walk (or hobble for me) and cycle. We returned with a very fit dog who had romped alongside us on the mountain bikes for the couple of days we weren’t climbing Ben Nevis or Ben More and thoroughly enjoyed the wind, sun, rain and everything else Scottish which we’ve been guilty of overlooking on many occasions in favour of taking trips to different countries. We even met up with our friends the Hoons who were spending a week on Mull which gave all the kids a welcome diversion from all things parentish, a boat trip to Staffa being the highlight. We’ve sort of vowed to pay our own British Isles a bit more attention in future.
One of the great things in our area which has just celebrated its first anniversary is the Northern Light Cinema in Wirksworth. This is housed in a former white goods shop in a back street and has been transformed into an intimate and convivial picture house complete with bar where you can really feel like you’re treating yourself – something the multiplexes seem to completely ignore these days. Cineworld at Chesterfield, and presumably similar chains the length and breadth of the country, have successfully managed to eliminate any form of welcome, atmosphere and friendliness from their premises. Contrast that with the NLC where you are greeted at the door, served by a smiling bartender-cum-waiter/waitress and called through to the auditorium where the screening is introduced. And no adverts either! I’ve been a couple of times now and the second visit was to see an esoteric film called Bicycle Dreams which was about the 2005 Race Across America. The event is quite remarkable and the competitors take lunacy to a whole new level as they cycle from the Pacific side to the Atlantic coast – over 3000 miles. Matlock Cycling Club’s Chris Hopkinson features well and his capacity to suffer is almost beyond comprehension, but he did it and was the first Brit ever to complete the race. I’ll not spoil it if you haven’t seen it but it is incredibly moving too, seeing what price some people pay in pursuit of their sporting ambitions.
The cinema puts on lots of these adventure-type films and I look forward to many more evenings out there with a little bowl of olives beside me rather than a bag of overpriced pick ‘n’ mix.
You may have read my tales of our trip to the World Adventure Racing Championship in Costa Rica last November. Well, our friends Wendy and Jo-Inge have talked us into joining them again for this year’s race, not that we put up much resistance. We felt we had to go because this will be the last year the event allows mixed nationalities so, unless Jo-Inge renounces his Viking heritage and follows his distant ancestors to live life as a Brit, this will be the last opportunity for the four of us to compete in this particular event together. It’s in Ecuador and it looks like another cracking format too with the promise of Andean altitude over 4000m right down to sea level. I haven’t tried to find out much about the course yet so I don’t know if there will be more downhill than uphill or the other way round but it sounds excitingly scary and should test us in many different ways again.
So, back to The Pig I started telling you about. It was a new event put on by Brutal Events which has a small repertoire of extreme multisport races in various part of the country. This one had undergone an uncertain delivery due to some arrangement with a partnership organiser going bust, but they had put together a well-conceived course starting near Dolgellau on the southern edge of Snowdonia which took in Cader Idris as the first run of 6 miles, a two lap cycle of 105 miles taking a loop down to the sea and up over a pretty pass near Corris, and a final 2-lap run of 20 miles mixing country lanes and trails. The weather turned out to be perfect and showed off the scenery to its best advantage and I had mended sufficiently to get through the first run and the bike. Christine was the first lady home and took 5th place overall and, although I had DNF after my name that day, I thoroughly enjoyed a lovely day out and completed half the second run at a brisk walk. Hopefully the event will grow in stature as one which breaks the mould.
Over the last few weeks I have been trying to find a replacement venue for the High Peak Swim which we held at Combs Reservoir last summer. Unfortunately the sailing club did not want the event there again so I approached the sailing club at its sister reservoir – Toddbrook – at WhaleyBridge. The idea was well received and would have most likely gone ahead if the Canal and River trust which owns it hadn’t gone all bureaucratic within the last 12 months. Whereas last year they were entirely supportive as long as the sailing club at Combs was happy, this year they decided they needed to consult environmentalists and legal people and draw up a water use policy. I’m afraid the bottom line spelt no, citing concerns about algae, which was rather a disappointment. But I’ll look at the possibility again next year and see what the answer is then.
In the meantime, the Wildcat Aquathlon is going ahead on 27th July at Matlock Bath with race distances on 500m/5k and 1500m/10k and it’s for individuals and relay pairs. There will be wetsuit hire available on the day so do come along if you’re free and enjoy a pretty river swim and off-road run around the crags and gardens. You can then sample a Sunday lunch of fish and chips – one of the village’s finest specialities.
Our trip in December to Costa Rica was quite an epic outing for us – long days, long nights, beautiful days, magical nights, sore hands, worse feet, wildlife in abundance and a nation of fantastic people – and now all the damaged body parts are back in working order it’s time to look ahead to this summer.
Before that though, I feel the need to mention another literary excursion I recently took, this time with Lord Coe. Seb, as my over-riding 1980s memory first thinks of him, was, and still is, a phenomenal person by anyone’s standards, whether you like him or not. Personally, I was very much on is side. He was amongst only a small handful of athletes one might call truly great, and his rivalries with his compatriots were the stuff of legend. The contrasting styles of him and Steve Ovett made them the media’s guaranteed headlines at a time when track athletics, largely thanks to them, was as high profile as it is ever likely to be.
Seb’s book, called Running My Life, is not the dull sporting autobiography chronicling statistics and the self-justification of delicate careers like many, but a candid insight into a life of high expectation on his journey through the various stages of life. From a socialist upbringing centred round Sheffield, he describes his hot-housed athletic talent under the remarkable guidance of his father Peter reaching world-beating heights. Conspicuously scant are reference to the public perception held as a clean-cut, media-friendly, silver-spoon kid. It seems that was his default personality which he never felt the need to shake off. He moves on through his early political career while still at university, his love of jazz, his short but colourful and self-destructive time as an MP and chief of staff to William Hague, and finally his bringing together of the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics. And to balance things out a bit, his description of the events leading to his arrest and prosecution for assault in Austria in defence of an old girlfriend is particularly refreshing.
The book is well put together and shows a man who continues to be admired for his achievements in his own quests for glory, and for the sporting world as a whole in, probably, greater measure. Well worth a read.
Another recent read too is Run Wild by Boff Whalley, but before going into that, let me tell you about Peaklife Sport’s plans for this summer.
The Derwent Duathlon is all planned and two-thirds full. It’s a couple of weeks later this year than last, and I hope that opens up as much opportunity as possible to the gods above to warm the place up and dry it out a bit. The Derwent Dam currently resembles a posh Niagara Falls and is remarkably noisy, but any amount of rainfall shouldn’t affect the course other than adding a few extra puddles here and there. Entries seem to becoming from all over the country this year which is great news to me. As someone who likes racing all over the place, it’s nice to feel like I’m repaying the favour by inviting them here.
The Wildcat Aquathlon will hopefully be on for the 27th July – again, later than last year. I’m hoping to incorporate a larger kids’ race into the morning so let me know if you have any ideas which might add to the occasion for them. There will be a relay option as well.
I was rather disappointed by Combs Sailing Club’s decision not to allow us to have the High Peak Swim there again this year. A few minor issues led to this being the case, but I’m hoping to put it on at Toddbrook Reservoir a couple of miles up the road from Combs. Further discussions are to take place at the Canal and River Trust and Toddbrook Sailing Club but things have sounded cautiously positive so far.
Back in November my eye was caught by that month’s exhibition at the Green Man Gallery in Buxton. I like to think I have a reasonable appreciation of artworks and, although I’m no artist myself – and therefore no critic – I tend to rely on the subject matter being of interest. This particular exhibition was one of fell running and it made for some curious offerings. I did like the large landscapes with fell runners strung out in a line and would have gladly had some of them on the living room wall, but there seems to be a difficulty in conveying the pleasure of mountain running and the thrill of exertion when putting paint on a canvas. Perhaps the artists were limited in their actual experience of this and missed the intimacy of feet with the ground on a tricky descent. But still, I’m no critic!
(Vincent Booth – artist)
The exhibition was officially opened by Boff Whalley. I wasn’t there, but I have met Boff a time or two. I doubt he remembers me as the one he had quite a long battle with at Winter Hill Fell Race some years ago, but I remember him for a couple of reasons: the daft name for starters; and because he’s better known as the guitarist of Chumbawamba (of Tubthumping fame in the early 90s).
Quite coincidentally, a friend passed on Boff’s Run Wild book recently. It is a bit unusual in that it meanders around all over the place with each chapter being almost entirely disjointed from its neighbours, but he has a certain way with words which I found quite beguiling. The thread running through the pages asks why anyone would want to run on tarmac when Nature offers a more rewarding alternative. He acknowledges the dedication required to string together 26.2 miles and applauds the reasons why people do it but is constantly urging everyone to lace up their fell shoes and find out what is up amongst those mountains.
An unusual bit of reading which had me thinking he was misguided at first, but eventually revealed an open mind with interesting insights into an unconventional life.
So, as the events in Sochi continue to fascinate – not least the Russian way of allowing rest of the world a carefully censored peek into its goings-on – I have thoroughly enjoyed the bits I have been able to see on the box. A warm-up programme about Torvill and Dean’s gold all those years ago was just the appetite-whetter I needed for the figure skating and ice dancing. I have long been fascinated by the combination of artistic grace and athleticism in so many forms, and end up feeling that the stuff I do is as gracious as Neanderthal man’s efforts at the Argentine tango. It’s one thing feeling you’re skipping down a mountainside or cleverly negotiating a twisting section of cyclocross course, but to be chucking a woman around who has a perilous pair of steel blades under her feet in all kinds of holds and spinning round like a dervish demands the ultimate respect. And all while holding a smile in place.
And what about Steve Cram? There’s a man who can commentate on anything. His passion for the curling is tremendous to hear, transforming a glorified game of marbles into something the nation is becoming captivated by.
Snowboard cross, too. Such entertainment. It’s like a variation on BMX racing but even funnier.
And finally, Vanessa-Mae. Lovely to see her getting involved but I find her violin playing more exciting than her skiing.
For the first time in many years we took a small contingent to the national cross country championships yesterday from MatlockAC.WollatonPark is always a great venue and even the sun came along to join us. I once remember seeing a young Mohammed Farah with bright red hair at this event and I expect a few of yesterday’s youngsters to be gracing our screens in years to come.
Jonny Brownlee even turned out and took a top 10 place and, if that wasn’t enough, he was then pursued by a gang of 10-year old girls – our daughter and her friend Michaela (pictured) being the ringleaders – desperate for an autograph and photo. Their mums were close behind too but I hear young Jonny was quietly tipped off and managed an effective escape before any harm could be done.
Welcome back. We survived our trip to the World Adventure Racing Championships in Costa Rica and have a big story to tell. Click on the 'results and race reports' from the home page.
Enjoy the read.
Happy Christmas and all the best for 2014.
I don’t know if I’m reaching a certain stage in my athletic life or life in general, but I have started finding things about the inevitable demise of one’s athletic capabilities more interesting, due largely to a book I’ve recently read.
Those who were following triathlon in its formative years – the 70s and 80s – will know the name Scott Tinley: that handsome blond Californian, twice winner of the Ironman world championships and great rival of the likes of Scott Molina, Dave Scott and Co. The man with everything, you might think – athletic brilliance, glamour (dodgy 'tash though), money (although only a fraction of today’s stars) and lifestyle. An intelligent bloke too, who now teaches English and creative writing at university, a philosopher, author and motivational speaker.
Unreconciled adolescent hang-ups, depression, skin cancer…….am I talking about the same guy?
This is Tinley’s self-analysis, how he embraced the good times but struggled to modify his outlook on life when his career was gradually dropping off. An incredibly well-researched study, it goes on to explain how he was not much different from many of those who make it to the top. In the days when career advice, or end-of-career advice, was non-existent he draws analogies with a soldier trying to re-integrate into civilian life, a high flying 30-year old multi-millionaire now seeking that buzz which once came so easily and even a devoted mother seeing her final child fledge the household. All have an emptiness in common and need to rediscover what was good about life before their success.
A really good read, it’s called Racing The Sunset (ISBN 1-59228-663-1).
Fortunately for me, I’ve kept my athletic genius under wraps to avoid this very predicament. All those sub-two hour marathons I’ve knocked out on a Sunday morning would have only brought me stress had they become more widely known. And as for my jaw-dropping skills with a football at my feet, well, that’s another story too. Best live the life of a respectable amateur, I think.
And back in the real world…………
It was rather a disappointment recently when the Kinder Great Beer Barrel Race didn’t take place this September. As a previous competitor with Team Gladioli – Gladiators sounding too HFM – and with a team victory under our belts in 2011, it is one of the sporting highlights of the year. For the uninitiated, this is a team race with eight people having to carry a barrel of beer from The Snake Inn to The Nag’s Head at Edale, a distance of around 4 miles depending on the exact route choice. The landlord of The Nag’s sensibly fills the barrels with water and it is left to the teams’ ingenuity as to how they are carried with most opting to strap it something like a ladder. Kinder Scout just happens to be in the way so it becomes a genuine test of teamwork, fitness and madness, the latter quality coming into play on the descent to Edale. There is something quite terrifying about dragging a ladder and barrel down a mountainside through the heather; something which I struggle to find the words to explain. I feel there is scope for some new words here, a bit like they have at the Shrovetide Football in Ashbourne, so here’s a quick glossary of new terms.
‘Kinderbarellian’ – a competitor in the Great Kinder Beer Barrel Race.
‘gronking’ – the act of ascending with the barrel.
‘suicending’ – the act of descending with the barrel.
‘heatherstuffing’ – what happens when the barrel snags on a tussock downhill at full speed sending its draggers face first into the vegetation.
‘preserolling’ – as a way of preserving one's life, the act of rolling out of the way of several pairs of feet and metalwork when one stumbles whilst in the process of carrying the barrel.
Give it a few years and see if the OED picks up on them.
Rumour is that this year was just a temporary hiatus on the part of the event’s organiser so watch this space for 2014.
Congratulations must go to Eryri Harriers this week for having hosted a splendid edition of the national fell running relays in Llanberis. We took a team from Matlock AC which was hoping for a respectable top 20 placing. But it wasn’t to be, I’m afraid to say. Our navigators on leg 3 really made a splendid hash of it all, with the comment “neither of us really corrected the other when we thought we were going wrong” being their philosophical excuse. Just crap navigating, lads. Nothing to be said. The team’s shamed, the club’s a laughing stock and you didn’t even buy the rest of us a beer to compensate. Teamwork, eh!
Finally for this bit, we’re off to try our hand at another new sport in a month’s time. I’ve seen these adventure races advertised before and read bits about them and always thought they sound fun. So it was quite a tempting offer when an old school friend of Chris suggested we join her and her husband to make up a team for the final of the World Series. The fact that it is to be held in Costa Rica helped us reach the decision to accept their kind offer so it’s all systems go now. We have an Anglo-Norwegian foursome with Jo Inge and Wendy Fjellstad and, at Wendy’s insistence, our team name is Peaklife Sport. How about that?
More about that once we’ve done it.
So, bye for now and enjoy the mud.
Just a quick one.............. here's my sister Helen handing over the money raised from the tea stalls at the Wildcat Aquathlon and the High Peak Swim (£258) to Derian Danni, the mascot for Derian House Children's Hospice, Chorley where she works.
As the summer continues, it seems like an age since we enjoyed one so comfortable and prolonged. Its lateness in coming seems to have allayed any water worries and everything has been blooming as it should. All the flora which produce something edible seems to have come up with the goods and, more than once this week, I’ve taken advantage of nature’s feed stations while out running. Not that I’ve been on anything long and arduous, it’s just that there’s a very prolific load of brambles a couple of minutes from home and the juicy berries look just the thing to signal the start of the warm-down.
We’ve been to a couple of good triathlons of late: one at South Cerney in Cotswolds kindly hosted by the Army so they could, yet again, demonstrate their domination over their air- and water-borne counterparts. They always invite us cops along too, along with any other emergency services which can rustle up a team, particularly the RNLI who really push the boat out, and I have to say we don’t let ourselves down. For saying most of us have baby photos which are black and white we were by no means propping the finishing list up from below and, of course, we all reckon our ladies are prettier than the soldier girls!
The other, more locally, was the Blithfield Tri over in Staffordshire which is another I can highly recommend.
This last couple of weeks has been largely dominated by the Matlock Triathlon in our household as I mentioned before. This isn’t a Peaklife Sport event but something I have been organising since 2003 and set me up with various ideas for races and provided some valuable experience of event organising. It was conceived when I became involved with the Matlock Area Recreation and Sports Group (MARS) which was set up by the then mayor of Matlock Barrie Tipping who felt the council needed a shove in the right direction to do more than just talk about bringing the town’s leisure facilities up to date. Years of under-investment had left us with a shabby former drill hall as an excuse for a leisure centre and the swimming pool was no longer recognisable as the outdoor lido it had been in its glory days. So, with a lot of effort from Barrie, the coffers were boosted by grants, donations and revenue from all kinds of sources and two years ago the Arc Leisure Centre was born. Seb Coe performed the opening ceremony and what a great facility it has turned out to be. A 25m, 8-lane pool with moveable floor is its centrepiece with gym, sports hall and a decent privately run café in a large open-plan reception is the finished product the good people of the area can rightly be proud to call their own.
The triathlon moved to the Arc a week after the opening in 2011 and has been attracting around 200 people ever since. It is a collaboration between the swimming, cycling and athletic clubs of Matlock and is designed to encourage first-timers as much as those seasoned triathletes who may have raced all over the world. Many a person can now claim that Matlock Tri was their first, and sometimes only, venture into the world of multidisciplinary sports events and most will say it’s the friendliest and best value. All marshals and helpers are club members, the council let us use the centre for free, insurance is covered by the clubs, everything is low-tech and the good quality prizes are mostly donations. In fact, the stopwatch is the most technical piece of equipment we use. Therefore, half the modest entry fees go almost entirely to the 3 clubs with the other half being shared between charities chosen by the winning man and winning lady.
It’s been a joy getting out and about closer to home this summer. For various reasons I have remained largely within the confines of Derbyshire and, other than for the sake of some variety, most of the things I do for leisure and pleasure can be found on the metaphorical doorstep. For instance, we all had a day to fill together last week and so we took off to the upper reaches of the Derwent Valley to seek out some aircraft crash sites. It’s always a good way of encouraging the kids out onto the moors, and hiking to the remains of the B29 Superfortress on Shelf Moor in the snow last winter clearly whetted their appetite for a similar summer excursion. Mind you, be aware that planes don’t tend to crash in convenient places next to nice clear footpaths and that late summer bracken growth can make blazing a trail quite a challenge, but we reached what’s left of an Airspeed Consul which met its sudden and unfortunate end on Howden Moor in 1951.
The Peak District has many of these crash sites, some more dramatic and visitworthy than others, but all have their own sad stories and are appropriate memorials to those who lost their lives in a variety of circumstances.
There are numerous references for these places either in bookshops or on the net and all offer an excuse to get out on the moors to do a bit of navigation practice.
Christine and I have always been keen to encourage our children to get involved in sport and embrace the joys of competition and it seems like it might be rubbing off on them rather too much. I don’t mean by their own desires to race, but by looking for that satisfaction which comes with putting someone or something within your control up for some healthy rivalry. Vicarious glory, perhaps.
Now, it has always been a joke going back as long as I or anyone I know can remember that one or two of Derbyshire’s more isolated settlements have developed their own forms of entertainment, and I’m sure this is mirrored the world over. I’m not on about things involving sheep, close family members or anything considered to be beyond the bounds of everyday decency. No, I mean the peculiar bucolic activities unique to a certain valley or village which they call sport. Cumbrians wrestle each other in funny outfits, people in Gloucestershire chase after rolling cheeses and no doubt Yorkshire claims to be able to outdo them all.
Just over the hill from Matlock is a little place called Ible, no more than a small hamlet of farms and cottages with a dubious reputation for racing hens. This annual championship historically took place on the 1st of April but few people outside Ible ever claimed to have witnessed it. In fact, few people can lay claim to having been to Ible full stop which only added to the mythical status of these avian conventions.
Then, some years ago now, the erstwhile and savvy landlord of the Barley Mow in nearby Bonsall hijacked the myth and made it a reality. Bonsall isn’t without a reputation for being tucked away over the wrong side of the hill, but I’ve always found it a most charming little place. Anyway, the Hen Racing World Championships are now an annual event in Bonsall and, getting back to my original point, our daughter decided that our chickens were more than good enough to take on the best in the world over a short sprint.
She decided that keeping them slightly hungry and with the temptation of a strawberry at the finishing line was a sure way of winning. So off we went having selected the raciest looking one from our little flock.
Our birds these days are not given names, not since the first three we had a few years back which had the handles Britney, Geri and Nigella. So we thought it best give our potential world beater some form of identity. Being on the gingery side of brown I suggested “Rogers” so we registered her in heat 1 when we got there.
It was an incredible turnout too. Nearly 50 chickens were up for it including last year’s world champion which, incidentally, is owned and trained by my website man Duncan of Aquaman Design!
(this is Ginger Rogers, not Duncan)
So I lined her up, offering words of encouragement and pointing out the nearby barbecue if she didn’t think I was being serious, and Lizzie stood beyond the finish line armed with a tasty looking strawberry. The tension was unbearable as the birds were set down with the crowd instructed to remain completely silent. The anticipation was like match point at Wimbledon or with only the black remaining on the table at The Crucible with 140 points already in the break. And with a gentle cluck and a smug look round, Rogers headed off into the lead. It was short lived though, and when Hendo Nagasaki was lifted out for over-zealous pecking of the opposition the whole dynamics of the race changed. A bit of gravel suddenly looked more interesting and down went her head. And then the start line looked more interesting than the finish line and the promise of a strawberry, and all our hopes for that afternoon were dashed. I mean, she only had to go 10 metres, the stupid old fleabag, and what did she do? Let herself and her family down. How could we ever walk the streets of Bonsall again with everybody pointing and laughing and raggety little urchins throwing bird seed at us and flapping their elbows in cruel mockery of a decent family’s humiliation? The shame was unbearable and we couldn’t bear to see the full afternoon’s racing through to the end.
So that was the end of her racing career. Back to laying eggs for you, my girl.
Back in the real world we need to start thinking about next year’s races. Hopefully the Derwent Duathlon, Wildcat Aquathlon and High Peak Swim will be on the cards, so keep an eye out for those on the homepage when we’re ready to start taking entries. Some letter writing needs to be done and one, or maybe two, additional races may come to fruition in 2014.
In the meantime, the cyclocross season has crept up and starts next week and, despite my good intentions, I will again be doing some frantic bike rebuilding and servicing this week well into the evenings when I should be sat with my feet up enjoying a bottle of nice beer.
Hello again. I know it’s not been long since the last time I added something but life, being busy as ever, often presents its little surprises which then need sharing.
This one was found by the good lady Christine when planning a few days away up north recently. I say planning, but that’s used in the loosest of ways as most of our excursions have little more than a defined start and finish with the time between filled out with the occasional idea of what we might aim to do. That does leave us with plenty of scope for serendipitous delights and little room for disappointment.
So, a quick “googleiseification” (my contribution to the American lexicon) of open water swimming events in the north-west of England threw up Capernwray. Now, Capernwray is a quiet little village in Lancashire a couple of miles from Carnforth, nice enough but not particularly memorable, with verdant surroundings and views across towards the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales. There is, however, something from its industrial past which has had a good dose on imagination applied and is nowadays the Capernwray Diving Centre. It is an old quarry, much like those dotted around the Peak District, which has been blocked off and filled with water to create a tranquil lake. The water is crystal clear and various items of interest have been dropped into it to give the scuba diving fraternity something to go poking around in. I had heard previously from a couple of work colleagues about this place in Lancashire where they went diving but hadn’t imagined anything quite so pleasant and on the bed, up to 15 metres underwater in parts, can be found cars, planes, boats and other curios.
So, back to the swimming. An event organiser called MyTriClub puts on a weekly swim there on a Wednesday evening throughout the summer and a few other multisport events throughout the year too. Along we went to find a bustling little place with a nice clubhouse serving decent food in a generally relaxed and convivial atmosphere. There’s even a bar. Our youngest entered the 500m race, the eldest the 1500m along with his mum and I had a bash at the 3.8k. There was also a 1000m option. All are based on a 500m lap which makes the 3.8k 7-and-a-bit laps, and I was reminded just how difficult counting to seven can be if done very, very slowly. The water was a comfy 18 degrees, there was scenery below too, and as the setting sun offered some measure of timing I completed my race to emerge from the water in just under an hour. Another great thing too was the natives. I don’t mean the Lancastrians but the rainbow trout. Clearly happy to share their pond with landlubbers they languished about it the shallows, eyeing us up as if to say why not just get some gills and do the job properly.
There is also reputed to be a five-foot long sturgeon in there too, although this might just be folklore deliberately spoken about for the benefit of those funny folk from Derbyshire.
So if you’re up in the Lake District, or spending a week in a dodgy guest house in Blackpool, seek it out.
Aside from Peaklife Sport’s races I have been organising the Matlock Triathlon (formerly the MARS Triathlon) for a few years which, in a couple of weeks, will take place for the 11th time. It’s always been good fun rounding up the members of the swimming, cycling and athletic clubs of the town to put on a cheap, cheerful and friendly event to raise a bit of cash for the clubs and charity. The other day, with a daily pile of postal entries to process each evening, I got carried away privately reminiscing and looking through my photos of past events. A lot of emphasis has always been on encouraging newcomers to triathlon and a few years ago it brought a lovely lady I know along to have a go at her first tri. As I have said, it is for anyone and everyone regardless of experience and attracts a fantastic range of people with all sorts of wonderful kit. This picture speaks a thousand words.
Who needs a carbon bottle cage?
Bye for now.
Blog-time again. Now that we’ve had the Wildcat Aquathlon and the High Peak Swim it leaves me with a bit more time to get on with enjoying the summer holidays. The good weather was a long time coming but seems worth it now we’re matching that more often seen on the continent, donner and blitzen and all.
I’ve had a lot of hearty news lately. I don’t use that word in the sense of a warm inner feeling but as an adjective about the heart, malfunctioning ones at that.
About a month ago I heard late one evening that a very good friend was rattling on St Peter’s gate. Whilst out on a steady bike ride he had taken ill and a few minutes later was in an ambulance under repeated attempts at defibrillation following a cardiac arrest. And a very fit athlete he has been for many years too. The drama continued at Chesterfield Royal and when a beat was eventually restored the wait began whilst he was held in cold suspension. His poor family had to go through days of wondering if he’d make it and, if he did, would he be anything like the person they had known. I can now, with relief, be flippant and say that detecting any brain damage might require more sophisticated machinery than has yet been invented, but going from an apparently healthy bloke to what was essentially death just like that was a sobering experience for all who know him. Anyway, I’m glad to report that the NHS played an absolute blinder and have given him another chance at life which I’m sure he will make the most of, not that he wasn’t doing so before. With a bit of careful rehabilitation he’ll hopefully be out running with us again soon and, implanted with the latest in cardiac monitoring gadgets, there’s a fair chance that he’ll be able to carry on where he left off that day. He might even be back to defend his over 50 title at next year’s Derwent Duathlon. All the best Andy.
The other heart story was equally remarkable. At Matlock AC we hold the Black Rocks fell race each July. This year I received an e-mail from a lady named Karen Hodgson who was planning on doing as it fell on her 50th birthday. It was quite nice that we can all give her a round of Happy Birthday dear Karen as we gathered on the start line and then I handed the microphone to her. She went on to announce that she was hoping to promote the National Organ Donor Register and had left flyers on everyone’s windscreens. The reason for this was that she was only 3 days off the 7th anniversary of her heart transplant. A collective gasp could be heard as she stood there with a lovely smile and her race number pinned on, ready to set out for 5 miles of fell running. What a great night it turned out to be and I hope the NODR has a few more signatories than before as a result.
Back to the subject of holidays, here’s something you might like to hear about.
If, like us, a cycling tour is your idea of a good trip then I can perhaps help out with your luggage matters. When we used to go away with the bikes they were chucked on the conveyor with a label attached and we would see them at the other end. Then one day, on a Paris – East Midlands flight we had a front wheel emerge onto the carousel as if it had been through my grandma’s mangle. The airline sorted it out in keeping with the terms of the Warsaw Convention but it was inconvenient nevertheless. So we then took to removing the wheels and fastening them to either side of the frame with cable ties. The theory was that the handlers would see what they were handling and might treat it with more respect than if it was a large black bike bag with unseen but valuable contents. This worked well for quite a few years until we were on our way to the 2011 Alpe d’Huez Tri. The Manchester baggage handlers’ rules were rules and we found ourselves unable to negotiate and plead our case with them – they must go in cases or boxes and that was that. It was time for some sharp thinking and after raiding WHSmith and Boots’ store rooms enough cardboard was found to construct a flimsy shell around the bikes with the help of a roll of parcel tape from a bemused lost property man. The exercise proved quite a spectacle judging by the crowd which quickly gathered. Perhaps they thought we were taking part in some kind of challenge, Anneka Rice style, and that they might get their mugs on telly or something. We just managed to check them in on time.
So as not to be caught short the following year on a Pyrennean trip the latent inventor within me began to emerge. The principle of lashing the wheel on the sides of the frame remained, along with a few bits like shoes and helmet stuffed into the gaps. Then came the best bit. Not wishing to be bothered with having to find accommodation for a bike bag for a week, as we were travelling with no itinery and only a small rucksack apiece, I found the answer in a roll of industrial cling film. You know the sort used by people who load things onto pallets. Bound in this marvel of the plastics industry, two beautifully neat parcels were duly delivered to the airport and slid off out of sight without a raised eyebrow from anyone. At the other end a pair of bikes were reassembled in minutes and we were off into the French countryside within twenty minutes. And for the return journey? The remainder of the cling film was stashed in a nearby tree, being careful not to alert the suspicions of special branch, and the process was repeated a week later.
Some of you will have no doubt heard of the Outlaw Triathlon – a long distance event based at Holme Pierrepont near Nottingham which is fast becoming one of the must-do races for iron distance aficionados. I am proud to say that this year’s winner is a friend of mine, Eugene Grant. One of the nicest guys you could meet, he approaches his sport with a sensible combination of gritty determination and with the aim of enjoying it. In fact, he was the winner of last year’s Matlock Triathlon too and, as an optician, chose to donate his share of the event’s charity purse to a Derbyshire charity for the visually impaired. So, with not far to go, Euge’s Outlaw efforts brought him through into first place, crossing the line in 9 hours 27 minutes. A great performance. And where did a time like that come from? I asked him. He puts it down to doing something he has never ever done before, never ever thought he would end up confessing to and never ever thought anyone would believe him, especially if he hadn’t won. Let’s just say that an approach by Gillette or Wilkinson Sword, or even Philips Ladyshave, might soon come his way.
Well, time to round off now. This sun and rain’s playing havoc with the garden – it’s growing too fast making that annual battle between me and it a real epic this year. It’s like being held on the canvas by Mick McManus with the ref counting one-a, two-a thr….as the summer races on only to be saved by the bell of autumn.
Take care and enjoy yourselves out there. It’s a great world out there and it’s waiting for you!
Welcome to our blog which, I admit, has taken me a while to sort out, not being naturally fascinated by the inner workings of a computer system. But here we are, ready to keep you up to date with Peaklife Sport's plans, developments and anecdotes.
Way back in what seems like the dark days of winter we kick-started our venture with the Derwent Duathlon. Our "duathlon with a difference" in the lovely setting of the Upper Derwent Valley offered the usual run - bike - run format with one run being on the road and the other on the fells but with the unique concept of having the choice of which run to do first. A healthy turnout of 84 on the day made for a cracking race, nobody came to any grief and it was a smashing day out for all involved. Plans for next year include a second running of the event with little change seeing as it worked so well.
The valley has always been a favourite of mine ever since those Sunday drives out with mum, dad, sister and dog to see where The Dambusters did their training, and such was the nostalgia when on May 16th I managed to get up here to see the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the raids. It was not a celebration, not a glamorisation of the death and suffering sent from one man to another, but a tasteful reminder of the failings of human nature, of naivety and courage, and of our need to work towards the putting our nicer sides to better use. Future visits to the valley will be stamped with that image of a Lancaster and Spitfire rumbling low above the water paying tribute to the best and worst aspects of mankind and I hope many of you will be back there to join me next spring.
Before moving on to our upcoming events, I would like to share a couple of recent sporting experiences with you.
Now, my day job is one which throws up surprises almost daily so perhaps I should have considered it entirely normal when, a few weeks ago, a chap turned up at our place looking for a safe parking space for his vehicle. Granted, he was an unusual kind of gent around Buxton - an Iranian living in the Netherlands with a disarming grin permanently etched into his features - but the intrigue was instantly magnified when I saw what he was driving. A real-life Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which he had pedalled from Holland across the North Sea to East Anglia and onwards overland to Derbyshire. Best described as a boat with wheels or a bike disguised as an overfed kayak, it's unsurprising that this guy didn't want to leave it in the pay-and-display surrounded by the town's pubs and clubs over the weekend. He was on a practice run around England prior to his planned 800-day round-the-world-via-the-equator jaunt he intends to start next year. Weighing in at 220kg, with sleeping compartment, larder, navigation gadgets, solar panels and removable wheels which can make way for a propellor, this was perhaps the craziest contraption I had ever set eyes on. Ebrahim Hemmatnia is his name and a quick internet seach will lead you to his Facebook page. He is absolutely bonkers, but completely beguiling, and had no problem getting a couple of nights sponsored accommodation from a local B&B prior to his meeting with the mayor after the weekend. I ended up showing him the road out of Buxton via Long Hill and off he set. And some of us think our bikes are good.
For those interested in the more unusual modes of transport, it was the Thoresby Festival of Cycling three weeks or so ago to which I took along my old penny-farthing. Nerdy as it may be to own one of these things, there is little to compete with the spectacle of these most primitive of bicycles being raced like fury. The Thoresby estate in Nottinghamshire provides a superb course for circuit racing and, as well as the conventional races for "normal" bikes, the festival provides the opportunity to race not only PFs, but unicycles too. My admiration goes out to those who have mastered the single wheel, but they're for softies really. Falling off a unicycle is rarely more spectacular than a bit of a stumble whereas going head-first into the tarmac from a penny-farthing is quite a memorable experience...as I remember. There's talk of Thoresby becoming a two-yearly event so look out for it in 2015. It's bike racing at its best.
Here at Peaklife Sport we're looking at events which carry an unconventional element, be that the format of it or even just it's uniqueness to the area. So last week we took a family trip up north to experience someone else's idea of a new event.
The City to Summit triathlon caught my eye some months ago with its colourful advert in some tri comic someone had left lying around. Now, I like a bit of a challenge which has, in the past, led me to such tris as Alpe d'Huez and Helvellyn so something billed as possibly the hardest tri in the world appealed to my gullible nature. An iron-distance event starting in the sea under the Forth Bridge before riding up through the Highlands then finishing with a fell run summitting Ben Nevis sounded like an ideal day out. So that was our Christmas presents to each other sorted out then - entries to what could have potentially been one of the most exhilerating or miserable adventures in a single day to date. As the spring barely managed to shake off its winter woolies and the mudguards remained firmly bolted to the training bike throughout May I was beginning to think how nice it would have been had Santa brought me a new pair of slippers and a bottle of whisky. But summer did eventually arrive and the first day of June, although not exactly a scorcher, could have loosely been described as "nice", in a Scottish sort of way. Disappointingly, the organiser's thermometer was advising him to cut the swim short in order that he wouldn't have too many clashes of dates for all the inquests he was foreseeing had he let it run the full distance, but it went on to be a tremendous event, brilliantly organised, and destined to become a classic on the race calendar. I was more than a little proud of my much-better-half Christine Howard who beat all the other girls and finished only a disturbing 41 minutes after me. (Mind you, if anyone wishes to hear my list of excuses, let me know and we can meet up for a few hours!)
So, it's all systems go for the Wildcat Aquathlon in a fortnight. The River Derwent is looking great at the moment and the recent turn in the weather should be warming its watershed. I'm chuffed to bits with the run route too. It's a beauty with a bit of everything except traffic. And for anyone wanting a dip in the same stretch of river beforehand, see the link to Matlock Swimming Club's website where details of the open water race series are posted.
The High Peak Swim sponsored by Aquaman Design is also coming along nicely for July 28th and work is in progress sorting out the finer details for the Slinks 'n' Nobblies cyclo sportive event on 7th September. More about those another day.
So, that's all for now. Time for a run and ten it's off to Ilkeston tonight for a swimmng gala I seem to have allowed myself to be talked into. I think the relay team must be a bit short.
Bye for now.