Well, that escalated quickly…

Blimey, I’ve gone a bit slack on the blogging front – I last posted on my birthday.

Well, if it’s any consolation, I’ve done a lot of riding this year – more than ever before!  Aaah, the benefits of a good summer – it was fantastic when it finally made an appearance!  I’ve been going out on rides in the evening on the local bridleways and quiet country roads, and also joining in with the Thursday night XC rides run by RLSCC.  This has made the weekends a lot more productive too – I can now do two laps of the Dog fairly comfortably, and have even done two laps of the Dog and the blue.  Admittedly I end up walking a bit like a cowboy after a hefty ride over the Chase, but it’s nothing that a bag of frozen peas and 400mg of ibuprofen can’t cure.

Sadly my racing has been limited this year – I didn’t fancy Mountain Mayhem, Sleepless was cancelled, Bonty 24/12 was the same weekend as my sister-in-law’s wedding (which was ace) and Torq in Your Sleep was the day before Mr Toast started his new job at Sega.  But things calmed down. Benny finally passed his bronze Good Citizenship test! All was well.  We started to ponder From Dusk Til Dawn.

Then I was made redundant.

To describe Thursday morning as ‘very surreal’ doesn’t really do it justice.  We were working away as usual. I went to the toilet, and, as I sat in the cubicle, I heard the door open and a male voice say, “Is anybody in here?”

I initially thought it was going to be a maintenance guy, but when I answered and had the response, “It’s Tom, you need to come to the second floor for a company meeting” – that was when I knew that something was seriously amiss. If the male company lawyer is coming into the ladies’ toilets and saying that everybody needs to go to an unscheduled company meeting, it’s not going to be for happy fun times. If you think differently, you’re either a deranged optimist or a pervert. Possibly both.

We shuffled to the second floor, a sea of concerned faces and nervous laughter.  I cracked a joke about The Hunger Games – truth be told, I was expected mass redundancies.  Blitz had tried so hard to buck the trend of hire and fire that’s prevalent in the industry that it was surely about time to slim down?  May the odds be ever in your favour.

What I wasn’t expecting was the entire company to have ceased trading, with the loss of over 170 jobs.

It was at the same time both kind of expected and a complete and an utter surprise.  Blitz had sailed close to the line over the past few years, trying to adapt from console development to a broader range of projects.  With the demise of THQ, the bottom falling out of anything other than AAA console development and the emergence of mobile and tablet gaming, it was a struggle.  But I think people always expected them to last – ten years is a long, long time in the games industry, and for an independent developer, over twenty years is almost unheard of.

It’s strange, because although Blitz never made a AAA hit, or anything that your stereotypical hardcore gamer would embrace, it’s a genuine loss to the industry.  Indie Celebrity(TM), former colleague and all-round good egg Mike Bithell wrote a lovely eulogy on Eurogamer.  So many of my former colleagues are at studios around the world – in Amsterdam, working on Killzone.  In Canada, working on Mass Effect.  Closer to home, in Twycross, working on super-secret Rare things.  I can’t help but imagine that when the news hit the gaming industry grapevine, that it was like Alderaan being blown up by the Death Star – millions of voices suddenly crying out. 

Because although Blitz wasn’t without its flaws (what company isn’t?), it contributed so much.  Blitz was willing to take on placement students, and graduates, or even with people without degrees, as long as they had the talent.  They allowed me to go out an champion accessibility in games development. They championed improved links between the industry and academia, helping students come out of university with relevant skills. And the Olivers are incredibly, incredibly nice, talking with relentless enthusiasm.  Hopefully something good will spring from the ashes.

So, what now? Well, fortunately Al started at Sega a few weeks ago, so at least one of us is in a job.  He at one point called me ‘a lady of leisure’. I threatened to punch him.  But I’ve got a few interviews coming up this week – all great companies, but I’m aware that I also have a lot of great competition now.

Interesting times!

I should be posting about my previous rides…

…over the Monkey.  Four so far this year, three of which went well, one which went… less well.  Took the Boneshaker a bit quick (not a euphemism) and came off in quite spectacular fashion, although fortunately I was remarkably unscathed apart from a few scuffs.

But no, let’s not talk about that.  Let’s consider this instead.

Well, that escalated quickly…

Excellent. The sun is shining, it’s pleasantly warm and the trails are dry.  It’s almost like spring!

After the recent weather and a bout of the standard office lurgy, was eager to get out.  Benny was dropped off at Old Farm Dog Boarding, where he enjoys long walks and running about in a huge garden with lots of other friendly dogs ranging from pugs and shih tzus to rottweilers and labradors (it’s quite a sight to behold…).  So, with Benny safely taken care of, we were able to go forth and bike and the same time!  Huzzah!

Not together though! Mr Toast wanted to hit Follow the Dog* straight away, whereas I decided to take it easy on the blue.  As it turned out, we did almost the opposite – I decided to do a bit of Follow the Dog, and Mr Toast decided to try and catch me up on the blue… which he couldn’t, because I wasn’t there.

Instead, I headed out from Birches Valley onto the blue.  As I passed the Stegosaur, I thought, “Well… I’ll go to up the fireroad hill and do 9, 10, 11 and 12”.  So I veered off in that direction instead.  It started out quite well – I pootled up the the fireroad hill steadily, and always in middle ring, with less trouble than in the past.  It looks like the commuting over winter has definitely boosted my fitness, even if it hasn’t kept the weight off!

I did the first part of section 8, then followed the diversion to section 9. So far so good.  I was riding well, even managed to overtake a few blokes…

THEN HORROR!

The first boardwalk on section 9 is an innocent little thing.  It has a clear run onto it – no awkward roots or large pebbles – you just ride in a straight line onto it.  I’ve done it loads of times.  I’ve done it a few times on the rare occasions I’ve been biking this year, on my 29er.  So what went wrong?

Well, it seems that I slowed too much on the approach, and was in too high a gear.  The front wheel veered off to the left, but I managed to catch it and get my foot down on the ground.  Unfortunately… I’m very small.  The height difference between my left foot on the ground and the rest of my body being on a bike on a board walk a few inches higher was too great, and after stopping, with grim inevitability… I fell over.  I’m not entirely convinced that falling off the bike once you’ve stopped is classed as an ‘off’, but… well, it’s a bit of a moot point really.  I ended up on my arse, legs in the air, entangled in my bike.  And those guys I passed?

Yeah, right behind me.

At the time, it felt that my pride had taken the main blow.  My leg had a couple of nasty scratches and a few specs of blood, but I just got back up and dusted myself off, and continued.  I pondered just getting back on the blue, but decided that was stupid, because I’ve been riding FtD without incident for years, and there’s no point getting a complex now.  So I carried on with 10, 11 and 12.  Without incident.  So there!

Crossed over the road (without incident) and took to the blue, but veered off for some cheekiness down the German cemetery which was a lot more rideable than last time I attempted it.  I guess not being covered in snow and ice does wonders for a trail.

I looped back and rejoined the blue. By this point my leg was starting to smart a bit, and the nasty scratches were starting to look a bit nastier.

20130420_180052Now, I’ll never be a Pretty Polly model, but the swollen red welts weren’t a good look.

Still, I’d had an awesome day and it was fantastic being back out on the trails.  Can’t make an omlette without breaking a few eggs, etc-

OH SWEET MOTHER OF ZEUS!

20130422_220612Sunday was interesting.  I got out of bed, and almost immediately fell over due to not being able to put any weight on my leg.  Eventually I managed to stretch it into a usable state, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience.  I got the bus in on Monday…

But today I’ve biked backwards and forwards from work, including extra sessions at lunch to check on Benny.  Other than a slight bit of stiffness, it seems fine, and the bruises are yellowing nicely!  I AM WOLVERINE! \o/ Except he’s the best at what he does.  I’m not the best at mountain biking. 🙁

Despite my comedy injury, I’m really looking forward to more biking this year.  We’ve got Dalby and Glentress planned for next week, so hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy those trails without anymore comedy offs…

* I nearly worded this statement “Mr Toast wanted to hit The Dog”, but given the previous paragraph I worried that people might take it out of context!

 

An update!

Right, WordPress updated, spam comments about handbags and the Middle East dealt with, and back to the blog!

So, what have I been up to?  Well, some of my racing schedule has been determined this year – I’m giving Mountain Mayhem a miss, sending Mr Toast out to be some sort of giant mountain biking guinea pig at the new venue.  He’s racing with the Chase Trails team of four (Ian, henceforth known as Crazy Ian, is soloing again). Three fifths of the intrepid Chase Trails chaps can be seen here, stalking Pat Adams’ house late at night, which isn’t weird at all.

img_2225Photo taken by famed event photographer Rob Crayton, who hangs outside Pat Adams’ house late at night with a camera.

I’ll be providing moral support… or pointing and laughing.  Time will tell!  At least there will be less chance of rain if I’m not riding…

I will be riding Sleepless in the Saddle though, and I have to confess to contemplating the Wiggle 6 Hour Enduro, which is also at Catton.  After all, six hours is only slightly longer than it took me to do one lap at Mayhem last year! \o/  I’d be soloing it, as Mr Toast is rather bogged down with work at the moment.

I’ve done a bit of riding this year, mostly getting used to..

TTT_first_ride

TEN TON TESS! Also known as Tess of the Hurr Durrbervilles – a Scott Scale Contessa 910 29er. I’ve not taken her on a full ride of Follow the Dog yet, preferring to put the miles in on the tamer fireroads just to get used to her ridiculously large wheels and her quite frankly preposterous wide bars.  I’ve done a bit of FtD on her, and some off-piste-probably-shouldn’t-talk-about-them trails on a group ride.

I’ve also become an aunt twice in the space of two months, so I’m plotting to buy two balance bikes in about 18 months for my nephews.  I’m totally going to live my gnar radcore biking dreams vicariously through them – it’ll be awesome.

Aaaand I’ve also been keeping up with my resolution to get back into drawing more, with my project “A Benny a Week”.  The aim is to produce one piece of art a week featuring my dog, which will hopefully improve my artistic skills.

I should be fairly good at drawing Tibetan Terriers by the end of 2013 at the very least.

So, here’s to more biking, more drawing and more nephews.  Huzzah!

July: North of the border

This month we made our annual pilgrimage to Glede Knowe in Innerleithen to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary.  This year was a little different, as we were in a different room from usual (which was also lovely and slightly bigger) and had Benny Lava in tow.

What wasn’t different was me displaying my usual knack for dates and awesome organisational skills – we turned up on the Saturday.  We were booked in from the Sunday.  Ooops.  As there were three weddings going on in Innerleithen, everywhere was booked out, and it looked like we were going to end up spending the night in the car.  Fortunately, Bill, the B&B owner, was an absolute hero, and found us some really nice accommodation for the night in neighbouring Stow.

Well, as per the rest of the country, the weather was fairly terrible, especially for the first three days.  The trails in Glentress are built to withstand such nonsense, however, and the blue at least rode perfectly.  I was fairly chuffed – this year my fitness and confidence has improved , even if my knees are not the best.  On my first ride, I went up the initial climb up to the Buzzard’s Nest car park in about 25 minutes without stopping and feeling 100% and ready to continue at the top, whereas in previous years it’s been much more of a struggle.  I think I’ve been up to the top before without stopping, but I think it took it out of me a bit more.

The skills course has had a bit of a revamp, which is nice – it’s lost features over the past few years, but now it has spangly new ones.  I really liked the ones that laid the different options – blue, red and black – side by side.

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 As we had Benny with us, our first couple of rides were solitary affairs, one walking the dog, one riding. Both of our lonesome rides were in torrential rain, and we got filthy, along with our bikes.  Unfortunately, these rides also coinciding with the days that the Glentress Peel carpark was being redone, so there were no showers and no bike wash.  Derp.

Sometimes we’d both walk the dog though, and be amazed by his talents.  Such as:

NORTHSHORE GNAR!

 

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TWIG COLLECTING!

 

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LOOKING DIGNIFIED!

 

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BEING PHOTOGENIC!

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On the Thursday and Friday we sent Benny to what Mr Toast kept on referring to as ‘Dog Prison’ – in reality, doggy day care.  Happy Tails picked Benny up in the morning, and I escorted him to the van.  He hopped in the crate, sniffed around and then sat down.  Overall, he was dealing with it better than I was.

We sallied forth to Glentress for our first ride together.  Mr Toast had tackled the red already, and had warned me off it slightly as it wasn’t quite as forgiving as the blue in the wet.  So we flew around the blue, the green, and messed around on the skills course a bit.  Towards the end, I went down the blue and Mr Toast went up to Spooky Wood and down the red.  On my way down, just past the end of the Admiral section, I saw a roe doe deer and her fawn.  They were positively frolicking and sproinging.

The weather was better, but there was still a lot of surface water on the trail so we still got quite soggy. We’re still not keen on the new cafe – the service is slower, the cakes are smaller and less tasty, it feels a bit like a school canteen and there are no tiny birds fluttering around nomming flapjack crumbs.  On the plus side there’s lots of seating and they allow sodden dogs indoors.

In the evening Benny was dropped off, and rather than being traumatised by the separation, he was exceedingly happy.  Win-win all around, and it would be repeated the next day.

We  pretty much repeated the previous day, except I did the climb up to Spooky Wood (which actually seems easier than the preceding shared blue/red climb).  I nearly lost my front wheel in what I thought was a shallow puddle but ended up being a bit deeper than anticipated.  There may have been swearing.  Spooky Wood was good fun, although slightly alarming in places as I tried to keep up with Mr Toast.  My ITB started to burn and tense, and I emerged from the exit crying for a massage.  Aah, the benefits of riding with Mr Toast.

After some leg wiggling, it was time for cheesy Stane photos.

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Again in the evening Benny was dropped off.  I apologised for him being excessively pully on the lead, and Carol from Happy Tails looked surprised and said, “Oh, he walks lovely on the lead”.

W. T. F.

 On the last day, we decided to do the black waymarked walking trail.  It actually has the same difficulty rating as the blue rated trail, just longer.  So off we toddled, and GOOD GOD!  OK, it’s not exactly out in the wilds, but there are some very steep awkward parts, and one of the bits was a bit slidey and covered in felled trees.  Some beautiful views though, and lots of variety.

 

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Despite the weather, it was a fantastic week and the trails are bloody good fun.  I look forward to next year!

And that’s how I ruined Mountain Mayhem!

Ah, Mountain Mayhem.  You may recall that last year, I had a slightly tough time of it, struggling with the inclement weather, the climbs, and my lap clocking in at over two hours.

Well, if last year was inclement, then this year was, if you’ll pardon my French, fucking unholy.

But let’s start at the start. We bowled up at Castle Eastnor on Friday with Jag, Xye and young Benny Lava in tow, ready to rock.   It was raining, and the campsite was a bit moist, but no fear!  We decided to go to the catering tent to sign in before putting the tents up.

Well, the arena area was muddy, to put it mildly.  As we signed in at the catering tent, one of the admin staff went arse over tit in the mud.  Yes, not even the interior of the tents were immune to the horror.  Certainly added an element of peril to eating – can you get to a seat without slipping and dropping your curry? LET’S FIND OUT!

Fortunately the answer was yes.

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Any illusion that this was going to be a jolly weekend camping in the sun with the dog had completely gone out of the window.  Poor Benny looked frail and up to his armpits in mud, and seemed decidedly unimpressed with the proceedings.  We decided that the weekend would be fairly nightmarish for all involved if Benny stayed with us, so off I went back home, where t’boy could spend the weekend in comfort, starting with a warm bath.  You would have made the same decision.  I mean, just look at him. LOOK AT HIM.

 

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When I returned, Camp Chase Trails had been firmly established.  Yay!

 

 

First night was nippy, but the tent was actually quite comfortable and roomy, and infinitely improved by not having a miserable soggy Tibetan Terrier glaring at us folornly.  We tried to mentally prepare for the forthcoming race.

 

Aside from the evidence of our own eyes, the first indication of the horrors to come in the race briefing.  Team members only had to do one lap, not two. For elites, it was cut down from four to three. Teams wouldn’t be disqualified for members having to abandon their lap due to mechanicals.  Repeated references to endurance.  Erk.

Young master Jaggy was first up on our team.  Rather entertainingly, he had somehow interpreted “Yeah, last year’s run was a mile and a half, it’s going to be shorter this year” as “The run is only 500 metres”.  Oh, how we laughed!  Well, we laughed, Jag seemed slightly less amused.

Toast’s plans assumed that we’d be taking about two hours per lap, so we dutifully waited for Jag to come in.  We waited, and we waited, and we were getting slightly concerned.  Had he fallen off?  Had he broken his bike?  Fortunately, he was fine, but he came in forty minutes later than expected.  Can you imagine that? FORTY MINUTES!

It became clear looking at the laptimes that we would have to re-evalute our estimates.  I set out just before 6pm.  I’d be back about 9pm, I thought.  Maybe 9.30pm.

Well, the first half of the lap went relatively smoothly.   Well, apart from when I fell off almost immediately in the first wooded section. I rode most of it, although had to spend a lot of time pulled over to the side to let people pass on the singletrack.  Last year’s resolution of being a bit more forthright and assertive dissolved under the weight of shouty men that were far better riding in the mud than myself.  Still, the last woody singletrack section before it rejoined the fireroad was actually nearly enjoyable.  I made my way back down into the arena, feeling fairly pleased.

Then the true horror began.  The ground became more boggy.  Given that I struggle with long steep climbs at the best of times, at that last year I’d found it horrendous after a couple of hours of rain, the rest of track was a nightmare.  I think I actually pushed my bike for 90% of the second half, and, as the light began to fade, I realised that there was no way I’d make it back in time.  I tried to phone Mr Toast, but there was no signal, so I plodded on.  Hilariously, the same condition that makes it hard for me to ride a bike uphill also makes it rather awkward to walk downhill.

I asked a marshall if I’d be disqualified for being pulled off the track, and he said he didn’t know.  As I didn’t want to risk disqualification for the team, and I’d already done seven miles and it seemed stupid to give up, I decided to continue on.  The off-camber section was possibly the worst, struggling to make my way whilst also keeping out of the way of everyone else – who were also pushing or carrying their bikes, just considerably faster than me.

I genuinely, geniunely hated that second half.  There was cursing and there were tears, and a solemn vow to myself that not only should I never, ever, EVER entertain the notion of doing Mountain Mayhem again, but I should probably give Sleepless a miss too.  However, as I made my way back into the arena, my spirits lifted.  The end was in sight!

Mr Toast and Xye cheered me in, and I passed the finish line at five hours and fourteen minutes.  Mr Toast was relieved –  as I’d been engaging in my act of ultimate stubborness, the rest of my team had been running around, desperately trying to figure out what had happened to me.  The notion that I was still out on the track was, I’m informed, ‘inconceivable’, such was my husband’s faith in my ability to finish at anything resembling a sensible time.  Being told by a rider that a woman in a blue top had been seen being carried off by a quad earlier didn’t ease their worries either.  I supposed two hours twenty-or so up to five hours fourteen is quite a leap, but, well.  It was muddy.

After escorting me back to the tent, they tried to find Jag, who was on a bold quest to find out if I’d died.  Eventually we all came back together.  Because everyone had been waiting for hours for me in the open, in the pouring raid, running backwards and forwards between the medic tent, the control tower and the Chase Trails camp, no-one really felt like going out that night.  The next day, both Mr Toast and Xye felt ill (poor Xye had been recovering from being ill a week previously, Mountain Mayhem isn’t a particularly effective remedy…) , and the course looked considerably worse for wear, so they didn’t go out.  Because I ruined everything.

Still, Jez called me a legend, and I still got a medal, apparently.  I may give Mountain Mayhem a miss next year in favour of being Mr Toast’s pit bitch, as he’s considering going solo.  We’ll see!

And now, for your viewing pleasure, here are things that amused me in between the tears and the tantrums:

BEING OVERTAKEN BY TEAM SUMO (AGAIN)!

 

 

 

BEING OVERTAKEN BY UNICYCLISTS (AGAIN)!

 

 Admittedly, it was a teammate (I’m assuming) of the chap above.  He passed me on the way up to the Obelisk, and gave me a liquorice allsort and words of encouragement.  Good lad.

BEING OVERTAKEN BY TEAM ISLABIKE…TWICE!

 

 This was a new one.  Ridiculously speedy on a tiny Islabike, although they did have the advantage in the unrideable sections in that they could pick up their ride and swing it about their head if they so desired.

 

This poor sod totalled his bike fairly early on, with the rear mech being pulled into his wheel.  OK, this one was more amusing when we first saw him in the sheep field, with the sheep scattering away and bleating.  It was a fairly random sight.  Slightly less amusing when we realised it was because he was completely out of the race less than two hours into it.

Also nice was the small child who high fived me and gave me a Pringle, the random dude singing “Country Road”, the guy who helped me onto more solid ground on the off-camber section, the chap who offered me his lights (before realising we had no way of attaching it).  Here’s to you, Mountain Mayhemers.

 

 

That there Monkey

I’ve been a bit slack on the blogging front lately, although that’s also down to the fact I’ve been a bit slack on the biking front too.  I’ve been biking into work on a daily basis, often even when it’s pissing it down, but I’ve found it hard to get out at the weekends.  Partly down to feeling a bit off, and partly down to family commitments.  This time of year is always a bit miserable for me as it’s the time of year when my dad died, and the weather – not helping.

I really want to get across the country – I want to hit Coed-Y-Brenin, Llandegla, Nant-yr-Arian, the Peak District, the Forest of Dean… but it’s a bit hard to muster the enthusiasm for a six hour round trip when it’s cold and wet.   We were hoping for some long weekends, but Mr Toast is finding it hard to even get the odd Friday off with his current workload.  We’ve not even managed our usual Easter trip  Ooop North to Dalby. 🙁

My knee has been playing up a bit again, so I’m off to see the doctor about whether a knee brace would be beneficial.  I quite like the look of the pricey but awesome Asterisk Knee Braces – supposedly good for people with ligament issues, looks very adjustable and doubles up as armour.  I’m just a bit reluctant to make the investment without knowing whether it’s definitely suitable for my knee injury, and what if they’re too heavy or uncomfortable for me?

I can tell that Mountain Mayhem is coming ever closer, as on Saturday night I had my first MM Anxiety Dream of the year.  I dreamt that I was riding, soaking wet under torrential rain, struggling in the mud and hating every second of it.  So, not so much a dream, more of a reminiscence.  I’m hoping my mother’s theory of weather proves true – “We’ve got to have a good summer!  We’re owed some good weather!”

On the plus side, what little off-road riding I’ve done lately has been moderately successful. For a start…

The Monkey!

Yes, it’s been well over a year since I’d ridden the Monkey, but I finally plucked up the courage to give it a go last month.  Despite my unfamiliarity with The Monkey (I’d only ridden it something like five times previously), it went better than expected.  My fitness was better than it has been in the past, and I wasn’t lying on the floor screaming with painful leg cramps, so that was a definite improvement.  My knees were objecting quite violently to the steeper climbs, and I had to stop to let the pain lessen a few times, and also probably took far more ibuprofen than is recommended.

I gave a few of the trail features a miss – I decided not to test my 50% success score on the pre-Klondike rocks, and also gave Woodbank a miss.  I was going to do it – I went to have a look, thought, “Oh, it looks easier than the start of section two”, and let a group pass.  The last fella in the group then prompty completely ballsed up, clipping his right handlebar grip on the tree and twisting his front wheel, sending him crashing in spectacular fashion.

Yeah, I’ll give that one a miss for today.

I also pretty much walked most of the Monkey-section of the Monkey.  This is probably going to sound a bit harsh, but it’s probably my least-liked bit of trail I’ve ever ridden in any trail centre.  It leaves me miserable and demoralised, with its stupid narrow trees and rock gardens, and I struggle to think of any part of it I actually like.  OK, I did have a brief moment of confidence boosting when I looked at the second rock garden, the only one I’ve ever ridden, and marvelled that I’d ridden that.  Admittedly it was before there was a huge gouge ripped down the right hand side, but still.

Being a bit of a pessimist though, that thought was soon crushed by the knowledge that there was no way I’d ride that again. The day that I rode that I’d been having a particularly good day, taking lots of risks that paid off… until I came off on the fireroad, stripped off a good bit of skin, broke my helmet and ended up on a heavy course of antibiotics.  I still bear the scars.   Pfft.  Be an overly cautious coward and live to ride another day, that’s what I say!

Went out on Saturday for the first time in weeks and rode the Dog.  Despite the good conditions, I ended up going a bit slower than usual, clocking in at one hour ten minutes – although I think a good five minutes of that was trying to wrestle my thermal jacket into my Camelbak.

Hoping to get out with increased frequency before Mountain Mayhem.  I need to improve my fitness, try and get my knees more used to climbing, and, my personal favourite, also have to get Benny used to camping… or its going to be a very, very tiring weekend.

26/02/12: Flirting

I love the Professor, I do.  He has been a faithful steed, taking me on my journey of being a rubbish mountain biker to being a slightly less rubbish mountain biker.  But he won’t be around forever, and sometimes it’s nice to have a back up plan.

So, whereas Saturday saw me spending over two hours walking around the Chase with t’boy, Sunday saw me demoing an Orange Five.  For me, there have been two consistent facts on demo days:

1: There will be a cock up with the booking on at least one of the bikes

2: If it’s a Leisure Lakes demo day, I will fall off in spectacular fashion at some point.

These facts held true on Sunday.  Firstly was the mix-up – I’d asked to demo a 14″ Orange Five or an Orange Five Diva Long, but I’d been put down for a Diva Short.  Fortunately the Orange chap was fabulous – he quickly assembled a regular 14″ Five and let Mr Toast and I go out seperately to the guided ride.  So, off we went.

As the demo was at Tackaroo, we got on Follow the Dog from there.  The bike initially felt a little alien to me – it’s lower than the Professor and a little longer.  The tyres were also fairly horrible compared to my High Roller/Captain combination.  The suspension felt lovely though, and it cornered really well – I actually managed to get around the nobbly zig zag just before Werewolf for what I think is the third time ever.  Said hello to the trailbuilders who were busy fixing the end of the Tackaroo section, and continued over the road and onto section two.

By this point I felt more comfortable on the bike, but there was one thing that really wasn’t right for me.  Handlebars.  Handlebars that were as wide as a wide thing.  It made me a little overly cautious between some of the narrow trees, but the bike still felt great.  Very confidence inspiring.  Too confidence inspiring.  Onto fact 2…

As I was approaching the end of section 2, I was literally thinking, “This corners really well!” as I washed out on one of the switchbacks.  Somehow one leg went in one direction, and gravity and the bike took the other leg in the opposite direction.  It’s the nearest I’ve gotten to doing the splits since my Tae Kwon Do days.   Fortunately there was no damage done other than a few impressive bruises, so it was back on the bike.  As we were on a time limit, we skipped six and seven and headed straight up the fireroad to eight.

At this point, I felt that the Five was at a disadvantage to the Professor as it didn’t seem to climb quite as well.  However, I had just battered myself a bit by sliding across the trail, I was a bit achey from my sudden upswing in weekday riding, and  I was a bit achey from the previous day’s fairly long walk. Eight was fairly uneventful, but the slippery pebbles were a bit problematic with the horrible tyres.  Headed back to to Tackaroo fairly pleased with the Five – a few home comforts (like sensible handlebars and tyres) and it’d be awesome.

Evidently I wasn’t as pleased as Mr Toast was with his 22″ demo, as he’s now got one on order.  Apparently he’ll now have to give up trail riding in favour of riding around the car park, and we’re going to have to swap the Vectra for an Audi.  Herp derp.

On the 2012 event front, Dave and Andy headed over to Pat Adam’s house in person to hand in our Mountain Mayhem entry forms.  They were the first people to ride there and hand in the entries (some others had gotten there earlier, but had driven), and massive thanks go to them for being so utterly bonkers and getting the entries in.  Although that thanks might be revoked when I’m doing my first lap, probably in torrential rain…

On the Dog Front, Benny had his first training session this week.  There were many puppies – spaniels, cockapoos, many, many pugs, a strangely vicious whippet, rough collies, a chihuahua, a pomeranian, border terriers, an English Sheepdog… and all of them could walk to heel better than our boy.  ALL OF THEM.  He was kind of the derpy remedial pup.  Still, I’m sure he get it eventually…

12/02/12: So I actually went for a ride

I managed to get my first ride over the Chase this year two weeks ago.  After leaving Mr Toast at home with The Boy, the day started fairly eventfully, when I accidentally doused myself in petrol on the way to the Chase.  I had to decide – go back home and forget my bike ride, or go biking whilst covered in a flammable substance.  I decided on the later – unless I clipped my pedal on a rock and sparked, I was probably on the safe side.

Incidentally, if you want to get the smell of petrol out of your clothes, saturate the garment in question in coke.  As in Coca Cola, not the snortable stuff.

Surprisingly, the usual panic over whether I’d lost all of my skills over Christmas and New Year didn’t surface, and I rode everything that I normally ride without any real sense of fear.  Even though it was *gasp* muddy.  It was just after the thaw, and although most of Follow the Dog has survived the winter fairly well, thanks to the sterling work of the trailbuilders (draining the berms on Tackeroo, for example), there are a few parts that a trifle muddy – the deforested section before section 11 being a prime example.  I didn’t get overtaken much and did some overtaking of my own so I felt that this year’s riding was off to a good start.

I really enjoyed being out on the bike again, and felt suitably warm and toasty in my new thermal leggings and overtrousers.  Admittedly, I probably would have enjoyed them more if they weren’t covered in petrol, but never mind.

The queue for the bike wash was understandably huge, which meant I had an audience for my comedy moment of blasting the Professor across the cleaning area and onto his side, still stuck in the stand.  Poor Professor. 🙁

Last week was no biking for me at the weekend – it was Mr Toast’s turn, and Benny needed a haircut.  Before:

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After:

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You know, at some point I’m actually going to start putting pictures of bikes on this blog.  You should see the Professor now, he’s got posh red grips.

In other news, it looks like I’m definitely signed up for Mountain Mayhem and Sleepless in the Saddle this year.   Hoping to put in a better performance this year, with more laps in a faster time, and less crying.  And certainly less overtakings by unicylists.

And on a depressing note, please keep an eye out for these stolen bikes.  They were nabbed in Croydon, but obviously with eBay and the like it’s possible that it could end up anywhere.

Soon…

Rather tragically, I’ve still not managed to get biking over the Chase this year.  I’ve been over the Chase a couple of times, but it’s normally to allow Mr Toast to ride and me taking t’boy for a walk.  I’m  hoping to get over there tomorrow – I was considering today, especially as it’s bright and sunny (at least, it is here…), but it’s also very cold and I’m a bit phlemgy, and I’m a bit worried about it being icy!

Still, I’ve managed to get some bike time in commuting backwards and forwards from work – with my sister-in-law away for the week, I’ve also been popping back at lunchtimes to check on t’boy.  Getting to work is easy – a five minute ride down a hill.  Getting back home takes a little longer, as obviously what goes down has to lumber back up at some point.  I feel slightly smug though, as a lot of people don’t even bother riding that hill (I’ve even seen people pushing down it… :S), and I’m feeling a lot more confident road riding now.

I’ve got a new pair of biking trousers, so hopefully they’ll get their first outing tomorrow.  We’re also demoing some Orange 5s next week. Interestingly, the 14″ Orange 5 has more standover than The Professor, but is a little longer – I’m interested to see how that would work out for me.  Mr Toast is interested in the new 22″ – he’sbeen pondering a replacement for the Meta for a while, so let’s see what happens.