Thursday, 27 June 2013

When Silver isn't good Enough

So, the Ripon Revolution sportive, my second 100 miler of the year. The first of course was the Etape du Dales back in May.

This one promised to be a bit different, not least because I'd now got lots of miles in my legs but also because the hills were all in the first half of the route with the last half being pretty much flat out in the Vale of York. There were quite a few Skipton CC riders entered but only I'd entered the long or (Jeremy Clarkson voice) "EPIC!" route. The first thirty miles or so were shared with the medium route anyway. Given that the route is so close to us, I'd actually ridden very little of it so it was all going to be new to me.

We woke up on Sunday to quite nasty weather though once we were over at Ripon it at least wasn't raining but it was definitely windy. This wouldn't be good on the first climb over to Lofthouse. The nice man at the starting gate reckoned it was going to start raining about 10am and if we wanted we could do the shorter route rather than get cold and wet.

Actually it didn't turn out that bad with just one short shower, not enough to put the jacket on for, on the climb out of Masham. The climb over to Lofthouse wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and the cattle grid marking the summit appeared about two miles before I thought it should have. Down in Pateley Bridge and decision time: bad weather alternative to the left; planned route to the right. Turn right and up Greenhow it was. Again not a bad climb but a definite headwind once the steep bits were over and done with.

The rest of the route went fine, mostly I was on my own though from Summerbridge to about five miles after Kirkby Malzeard I was riding with a guy from Harrogate until I looked round to see him about two hundred metres back, off his bike with cramp. By the time I got to the last food stop I'd been on my own (and passing quite a lot of riders along the way)  and also had the feeling that I hadn't been feeling the wind against me for a while. I needed to get in a group for the last bit back in to the wind.

About  two miles after the food stop a group went past me, but too fast for me to get on to their wheel, then about a mile later a second group of just three. A couple of miles of real effort got me on to the back of them and then it was just a case of doing my turn on the front. We picked up another rider with about 15Km to go so even easier work wise.

I'd got it in my head that the time limit for the gold standard was 6hr45 which now that I was in a group looked very achievable, I'd guessed that I'd be finishing in around 6hr30. With this in mind at about 10Km to go and seeing Cath up ahead I reckoned that I could roll in with her and still make the gold standard time so I peeled off the group and chatted to her. She'd had a blowout just after the last food stop so had been delayed a bit. At the top of one rise I realised that I'd dropped her so decided to press on.

Before too long I recognised the road as being the one we'd set out on and crossing the River Ure there was the finish. Over the line and stop my clock at 6hr31min37. I'd only just got back to the car and begun to get changed when Cath arrived, so she hadn't been that far behind.

I'd actually felt pretty good for the whole ride and hadn't had a bad patch, in fact I would have been quite happy to do another twenty miles or more: the benefits of dong a lot of miles in the preceding weeks.

It was only when I got home and check that I found that the gold standard time was 6hr34! Was my watch correct? Had it auto-stopped at any point? When the results appeared, it was confirmed: 6hr31min37 Phew! My first sportive gold standard, in fact I'd never even got a silver standard before now so I was really pleased with how things had gone.

I went for a recovery ride the following day and even managed to get a top ten cup on Strava without either trying (I stopped for a comfort break!) or realising. Things are starting to feel good :-)

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Some Days are Better than Others

A couple of decent rides at the weekend taking advantage of the warm weather. It's nice to be able to get out without feeling you are dressing for the arctic winter!

On Saturday four of us headed over towards Nidderdale for a "lumpy" ride that took in a few roads (and climbs) that I'd not done before. Here's the Strava trace. For some reason my legs felt heavy and I was hanging off the back for much of the ride, especially the uphill bits. Dunnies Cafe in Otley provided the usual good value fare.

Come Sunday and there was six of us heading out for a slightly less lumpy ride over to Settle then Halton Gill. My legs felt fine and I could blast up the climbs with ease. This was a two cafe stop ride: Halo in Settle and the Kilnsey Trout Farm, well it was Sunday :-)

In a couple of weeks' time there's the Ripon Revolution Sportive and I've signed up for the 102 miler (gulp!) but since most of the climbing is in the first half of the route it won't (or shouldn't) be too bad.

Monday, 3 June 2013

A Ramsay Round Success

No, not me! Bill Williamson finally succeeded on the Ramsay Round at the weekend.

He'd had several attempts, the first in 2009 when I'd walked in to the eastern end of the Mamores to wait for him and support him over the final section. In the event he'd given up on the descent from Beinn na Lap and I ended up supporting the other two contenders: Alan Lucker and Will Houghton who succeeded becoming the 54th and 55th completers.

Alan and Will on Binnein Mor. This shot was used as the cover for the Harvey's map for the Ramsay Round.

Bill had a couple more attempts in somewhat poor weather conditions: constant rain and up to 70mph gusts of wind which didn't go well. Last week I received various emails and texts reckoning that the weather was going to be good for the weekend. By Thursday it was on!

Friday morning saw me getting the train to Appleby where Bill and Jean (his wife) would pick me up. However they had forgotten about Appleby Horse Fair and they got stuck in the traffic of horse drawn carts heading to that event so it there was a slight delay before we began heading north.

Usually Bill had used the Rucksack club's hut at South Ballachulish but it was in use this weekend so the base was a B&B at the foot of Glen Nevis which was actually much handier.

The attempt was fairly lightweight, a total of four pacers on the hill plus Jean and myself as "static" support. Unlike the Bob Graham and Paddy Buckley rounds there's no road crossings on the Ramsay, the nearest road being a kilometre from the Loch Treig dam so Jean was going to meet him there and I was going to walk in to Meanach bothy.

Reaching Fort William we headed to the supermarket to get some supplies. As we pulled in to the car park we noticed a camper van with a pair of running shoes propped up on the windscreen. " That looks like Ali's (Welsh) van" Sure enough he was inside. Alan Lucker who was the sole support for leg one over Ben Nevis and the Grey Corries tried to persuade him to join him but Ali wasn't keen having been out on the hill already that day.

At the accommodation it was a matter of biding our time until we needed to drive up the glen to the youth hostel in time for Bill's midnight start. Alan was going to set off a few minutes earlier so that he wouldn't be under pressure keeping up with Bill whilst carrying all the supplies. Finally it was time, some synchronisation of various time pieces and he was off.

Not only are there no road crossings on the round there is very little mobile phone coverage so the first we would know how things were going would be when Bill and Alan arrived at Loch Treig, hopefully around 8am.

My cue to walk in to Meanach would be a text from Jean once she got back to the car at Fersit. This actually made things quite tight timewise as it's about a ten minute walk from the dam then from the accommodation it is around fifteen minutes to the head of the glen and then I reckoned it would take me three hours to get to the bothy. Bill would only take four hours or so to complete the three Munros to the east of Loch Treig so there wasn't much leeway.

When the text came through, it was that Bill was about 15 minutes down on schedule but looking strong. In fact he was very strong and was beginning to pick up time on nearly every ascent. Time to go. I was walking in with Jim Mann who has a very quick winter Bob Graham time against his name. Jim had never been on any of the hills in the area so it was all new to him.

We took a good steady pace in the morning sunshine. There were a couple of showers but they were so light that it wasn't worth stopping to put a waterproof on. Three hours later and we arrived at the bothy. Two minutes later Andy Kitchen the fourth pacer arrived having run from Glen Nevis in 90 minutes - he promptly pulled out half a dozen pot noodles from his sack along with a stove! Scottish fell runners' hill food!

We'd only been there about fifteen minutes when Andy shouted out "They're here!" It turned out to be a false alarm - I think it was a couple recceing the round and they didn't come to the bothy but headed straight for the Mamores. However it was only another five minutes before they did come in to view and there were three of them. Ali had decided to help out on this leg.

Bill, Chris and Ali approaching Meanach bothy

Once inside we got Bill fed and on his way in fifteen minutes, with such few chances to take a breather and sort things out there's no point in rushing. Bill looked strong and remarkably stress free compared to previous attempts. Even though on this occasion the weather was fine, having the bothy as a stop would be really advantageous in poorer weather. Then it was time to go.

Bill getting replenished in the bothy

Time check and then it's away to the Mamores

So in less than an hour of arriving at Meanach we were on our way again. This time I'd got Chris (Armour) and Ali, the leg 2 pacers as companions on the walk out. As we set off there was a heavy shower which lasted about forty minutes, though this was the only real shower we had all day. We could see the group of three making their way up the long north east ridge of Sgurr Eilde Mor. The last I saw was them beginning the descent from that summit, our progress, the distance and the terrain meant that we wouldn't be able to see them again.

The walk out was rather hard as my knee was playing up so Chris and Ali had to keep waiting for me. In the end it took 3 1/2 hours to walk out, I'm sure the other two would have done it in 2  1/2 or less. Then it was a waiting game, a long waiting game.

We decided to head up to the finish line at 10pm - it was unlikely that Bill would get there by that time but it would be a bit ironic if we'd found him there twiddling his thumbs! A few walks up the road and back as the night began to draw in then there was a shout and he came in to sight.

Still running he reached the point where he'd set off and stopped his watch: 22hrs 54 minutes. He'd become the 71st person to complete the round.

The finish, 22:54 and job well done!