On Saturday I raced in the Midlancs XC Leyland race (well it was local). I decided to cycle over there rather than worry about parking the car. The wind was pretty strong and in my face on the way over, but I bimbled along in the sunshine. I made exactly the same mistake as I did last time I tried to get to Worden park and continued on round past Tesco. D'oh. Being on the bike meant it was just a case of cutting through Tesco's bedlam car park to get back on track. Only 4.5 miles of bimbling.
The park was pretty busy, not just with runners and I located the tent area and started cycling across the field a bit to get there. Ground conditions were very wet, stodgy and heavy going, being on a bike with road slick tyres on meant no traction what so ever, after the third time the rear wheel tried to break out on its own I decided it may be prudent to get off and push.
At some point when waiting around the weather changed a little, sky darkened and wind picked up. It was really cold, I did a brief warmup to get my legs used to running again before heading off to the start line. Brief faffing around and we were off. I settled into a pace quite early and just kind of stuck at it, my legs did feel a little heavy but not completely leaden as I'd worried. The course started off running round some flattish fields and football pitches, which were heavy and occasionally even the Walsh's couldn't cope with the mud.
The next section was superb, out into a wooded area, lots of singletrack and a couple of stream crossings. At the end there was a steep bank that the women in front of me were walking up. I had a go at running it, which went well until the mud was so thick it clogged my shoes and I nearly ended up on my knees. I stepped into the leaves at the side to get some traction and even used a handy tree trunk to pull myself up a bit. After that it was back into the park and back round the football pitches which seemed to go on forever and ever.
I crossed the line in 36:40 for 6.4 km 9.13mm pace, not exactly blistering but the longest course yet I think. Really enjoyed it though due to the woodsy section. It was too cold to hang around for much after racing, enough to see the lead men steaming past but I headed back off on my bike doing some errands on the way home.
On Sunday I headed out to West Yorkshire for a 20 mile or so mileage building ride. I wasn't sure how my legs would be after racing so I was taking the slow and steady approach, particularly as the ride sets off straight uphill. Fortunately for me neither Jez or Ed are particularly fit at the moment so I didn't have the problem of them riding out ahead of me making me speed up, it was mainly the other way around actually which I must say is a bit of a novelty for me.
We had some debate about an actual route but ended up forgoing the climb up the Gorple Road to head up to the Long Causeway instead on the Pennine Bridleway. The track was really stodgy in places so had to remember how to ride a bike in soft conditions. The ford we crossed before climbing up to the Long Causeway was a bit deeper than normal, both feet got a proper dunking and eventually the water would work its way down inside my boots. For once I decided not to wear my merino sealskins on a winter ride and I ended up with a cold left foot.
We rode along the rode for a bit as my legs got more into it, they never got particularly full of beans but they were very happy to just keep going which I was pleased about. We dropped off the road onto some bridleway heading towards Tod. There was some proper stodge along this way, its been a while since I've had to wrestle the bike through that kind of stuff. There were a few moments where the pedals were going round but the wheels were only moving about an inch, luckily they managed to find some traction before I was forced to unclip or topple over sideways. Average speed: about 2mph! Excellent fun - mountain biking as a whole body workout.
We then rode across some pack horse trail whose name now completely escapes me but there are old slabs laid across that have been worn over centuries. I have cleaned this section loads of times but not today, in fact none of us did due to the fact that the track was often submerged under water hiding all the cheeky pointy rocks and other things to catch the unwary. This is prime over the bars territory for me but I made it through with only a couple of dabs (of my foot rather than my face). Its amazing how much the rideability of trails can change from one ride to the next.
We decided to head down to the golf course then up along the excellent piece of singletrack bridleway which was made slightly more difficult by virtue of being a stream and hiding rocks. A couple of dabs but ok and good fun then we had to climb this very long, steep road hill. I just plugged away (actually in middle ring as that actually kept my heart rate down better than trying to spin) and my legs actually didn't die at the end of it as I expected. We then headed up through Colden and picked the PB back up to head over to the Gorple Reservoirs. All that was left was the always delightful climb up from Widdop and the last descent back to the car.
I was feeling pretty cold by then, I had good layers on but my left foot was cold and having cold feet makes the rest of me feel cold. The wind was also pretty strong and cold and it was really, really strong setting off up the climb. I don't think I've had that before, normally the hill blocks it out but not today. I just continued plugging away making not bad progress until I got caught out on the last loose section. Its always a bugger after cleaning the rest of the climb there is one section of rubble to get over which needs a big push and I don't think I've managed to attack it in anything more than my granny gear. I had actually ridden all the difficult bit but my front wheel pinged off a rock as I had almost cleaned it and I couldn't get it back. Its always a problem riding in such a low gear and trying to keep the front under control.
The descent down the Gorple road needed a lot more pedalling than seemed fair and the cold wind was giving me a headache by the end but its still an ace descent. A quick post ride pint then home, the rain started as we hit the M65. We were quite lucky with the weather as it looked black and awful on the Bowland fells on the way over but was sunny for all of our ride.
In the end it was about 19 miles with 850m or so of ascent. Considering I was doing slow and steady I average about 7.5 mph which is my normal pace round this way anyway.