Glass Half Full!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

On a pretty chilly, but clear, Saturday morning I set off to ride to Barley to take part in the Nelson Wheelers Hill Climb on the L822 course. The fact that there were only 18 entrants, and that included some top class climbers, led me to believe I was going to get a rude awakening!

25 miles and 2,000ft of climbing seemed a decent enough warmup but I’d never done this climb before, so I rode up it to see what it was like.  About a mile long, not too steep, and with few changes in gradient. I had a chat with the organiser at the top, who put my mind at rest by eulogising about the capabilities of the other entrants.  Back at the HQ I signed on and then I saw National Hill Climb favourite Tejvan Pettinger.  Now I am the lightest I’ve been for 20 years but I suspect that even though he was well over 6ft tall, he was maybe 10kg’s lighter than me.  Great.

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I was fourth off and as per usual I went off too fast on the shallow start.  I was blowing hard after about half a mile, and again, as usual, I was hanging on at the end.  As my body transferred all blood to my legs, my arms went numb, shoulders ached and vision blurred.  My legs were screaming at me to stop, my lungs burning to the point that I still haven’t stopped coughing a day later.  Why do I do this again?  As you can see from the graph above, I spent 47.5% of the climb with my HR between 85 and 90% maximum, and 43.8% between 90 and 92%.

My time was 4 minutes 45 seconds, which was good (bad?) enough to be 10th from 12 blokes or 15 overall starters.  Tejvan won with a time of 3:32, only 2 seconds off the course record.

The ride home was lovely – clear and crisp skies and warming up nicely.  My legs certainly felt it though.

On Sunday morning, it was even chillier.  This time I was riding to Sabden to ride the North Lancs Road Club L806 Nick o’ Pendle climb.  Despite being freezing it was clear the day was going to be lovely as the sun was rising.  Another 30 mile/2000ft warmup and I was due to be 19th off this time, with Tejvan off immediately after me. Fantastic.

I’d ridden the Nick on the Season of Mist audax a couple of weeks ago, and got up it pretty quickly, earning myself a 7th place on Strava’s leaderboard.  However, looking at all the competitors warming up on rollers I wasn’t too confident – especially as most of them made me look like Billy Bunter on a bike.  The starter, an old boy with a broad Lancashire accent, wandered over and shouted “Boots” at me.  Apparently he is still a life member of the National Clarion, but the Clitheroe and Lancs sections no longer ride any more.

Anyway, at the start I was determined to pace myself more sensibly, which I managed for the first couple of hundred yards.

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At around the halfway point I heard the wheels behind me and Tejvan went past me at a tremendous pace.  At this point I was starting to feel in trouble and I was struggling.  I didn’t feel like that on the Season of Mist – maybe two in two days, with rides and to and from the events was too much.  As I crossed the cattle grid I looked up and saw that there was quite a crowd, who were now shouting encouragement to me as I tried to dig in.  The last 50 yards was excruciating and as I passed the finish a guy caught me and held me up – just as well as it took me 5 or 10 seconds to get my breathing under control.  And then the coughing started.  I’d like to say it’s stopped now (8 hours later). But it hasn’t.  This time I managed to spend 4% of the ride with my HR over 94%!

As it was I came 16th out of 19, with a time of 5 minutes 26 seconds.  Tejvan won again with a time of 3:39.  The ride back was again absolutely stunning, with the sun warming up really nicely.

Although I finished at the back of the field on both days, I enjoyed testing myself against some seriously strong competitors.  My times were in no way embarrassing against the rest of the field (Teyvan excepted!) and it gives me something to aim for next year – when I will be back!

Evil Fairy Rainbow Stars*

For me, the weather this weekend has been perfect cycling weather.  Some people prefer it cooler but I love cycling when the sun is out and the breeze is flat-to-non-existent.

Ade's Road Cycling BlogSaturday is my usual rest day but the weather was so perfect that I couldn’t resist and decided to head out for a blast round my usual 32 mile training route.  I’ve been doing this route for 2 years and yesterday I did it in a personal best of 1hr 45m, which is nearly an hour quicker than I was 2 years ago.  I was feeling pretty strong so decided to attack the hills and get up them as fast as I could.  The result was an average spped of 18.1mph which I was pretty pleased with.

Today I drove to the picnic site at Barley in Lancashire to meet Martin and Graeme and do a route plotted by Graeme.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

4,569ft ascent


The route took us up Waddington Fell and out towards Bowland, stopping in Dunsop Bridge at Puddleduck’s for coffee and cake.  Then down to Longridge before swinging left towards Clitheroe and back to Barley.  I have to say that the weather was beautiful and on days like this there is nowhere better to be than in the English countryside.

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In the past week I’ve been up Waddington Fell twice and the Nick o’ Pendle from both sides.  So much for thinking I wasn’t doing enough hills a few weeks back!  It was a really enjoyable day, with a great route plotted by Graeme and great company.  Absolutely loved it.

Ride Stats

Saturday : 32 miles in 1hr 45m @ 18.1mph, 1,849ft of ascent.  142bpm average HR and 1,413kcals

Sunday : 49 miles in 3hrs 40m @ 13.4mph, 4,569ft of ascent.  120bpm average HR and 2,477kcals

*You may be wondering about the title of this post.  Apparently, at the end of last weeks audax, Martin was so tired near the finish that he started hallucinating.  He described seeing different coloured fairies who would wave their wands and shoot rainbow stars at him.  When the stars hit him they drained his energy.  All I can say is who needs drugs when you can get the same effect from doing an audax!  Maybe Martin should do some more and start designing computer games too…

Tan Hill 200 Addendum

I forgot to mention that with the tremendous hills yesterday came some brilliant descents.  These were real point-the-bike-and-hold-on-for-dear-life drops, and I broke the 40mph barrier on 12 (yes twelve!) different occasions, maxing out at 51.8mph!

Also, when the total ascent went over 9999ft I discovered a bug on the Garmin 800.  It justs displays “—-” even though it correctly records the ascent.  Bizarrely, total descent displays fine over 9999ft.  So if this happens to you it’s “normal” – I have reported the bug to Garmin so we’ll see whther that gets ironed out in the next firmware update.

Tan Hill 200 Audax

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Setting off from a car park in Padiham, near Burnley, at 8 am, a small group of audaxers headed North out of Lancashire and into the Yorkshire Dales.  In the group was Martin, Anthony and I from North Cheshire Clarion, riding the Tan Hill 200 audax which is a 200km audax with 4 AAA altitude points!  That effectively meant 4000m of climbing – uncharted territory for all of us, especially over such a distance!

By 8-30am we had already conquered the Nick o’ Pendle and the hills were coming thick and fast.  We moved North through Clitheroe and Slaidburn, skirting the Bowland Forest and then heading North East into the Yorkshire Dales.  A cafe stop in Hawes at a cafe with a fierce East European waitress helped fortify us as we headed for the big climbs up to the heighest points on the ride.

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Martin at the top of a hill

The first was Buttertubs – thankfully up the “easier” southside and the views from 1700ft in the sun were fantastic.  Next up was Tan Hill, which has a steep kick at the start, a long grind, and then a sharp sting in the tail.  A quick stop at the Tan Hill pub and we were off again.  The third climb in this area was the worst – I don’t know what it is called but it was horrible.  A couple of miles long, rising 900ft, it was straight into a headwind which made it feel much, much worse.

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Anthony can't quite get the hang of the right turn signal

Gradually the hills were sapping our strength and the headwind, although slight, was not helping.  We stopped at Bolton Castle tearoom for coffee and some cake  and then a final sting in the tail at 90 miles nearly finished the guys off.  From that point onwards we were hanging in until the end.

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12,071ft of climbing

Overall the route was absolutely fantastic – well done to Andy Corless the organiser for a great day.  For the princely sum of £3 we got a great ride, great weather and a goodie-bag at the end that was easily worth way more than the entry fee.  Well done for Martin and Anthony for hanging in too – a very tough day but enjoyable nonetheless.

Ride stats : 129 miles in 9hrs 29m @ 13.6mph average.  12,071ft climbing, 6,863kcals used



Season of Mists Audax

A wet and wild Sunday morning early start saw nine North Cheshire Clarion stalwarts gather at the HQ in Hebden Bridge for the Season of Mists audax.  Wet weather gear was the order of the day but unfortunately none of us had the right equipment for the level of rain that was falling!

Gaz forgot his coat and Martin forgot his shoes so one got the feeling that it was going to be one of those days.  We managed to be on time for the start for a change so we set off half a mile before the first climb in Hebden Bridge.  What a climb it was too!  Nearly a mile long and with a gradient peaking at 16.7% it was a fierce climb for cold and already wet legs.  Added to that the last few hundred yards were on wet cobbles!  Horrible!

A mile further on and “lucky” Gaz got a puncture. Jim wasn’t feeling well so decided to go back to the car – not before Martin borrowed his shoes and Gaz had his spare inner tube!  At this point we’d been going half an hour and had done 2.25 miles.  And were all soaking wet.

The roads were very wet – almost like streams at some points.  It made going downhill and picking lines very tricky and placed a lot of strain on brakes and brake blocks – which now need changing on my bike.  Even the Garmin started playing up in the rain, refusing to signal turns.  We missed one turn which meant an extra climb back up the hill – that was very popular.

Around 28 miles in we had the first cafe stop.  The poor cafe owner was trying to serve and mop up the puddles of water at the same time, but I still managed a nice hot apple pie and custard and a cup of coffee.

I managed to tick off a hill from the 100 Greatest Climbs book – the Nick of Pendle – which was by no means the worst of the day.  Here’s the profiles for the days climbing

6981ft of climbing!!!!

Some nasty sharp hills

There is a spike in there at 32% gradient which I’m not sure whether it’s a Garmin/GPS issue or was actually one of the hills.  There are a dozen or so 10%+ hills on there though and at the end of 63 miles it was very, very tough on the legs.

The second stop included some homemade cake which was simply brilliant and at the end, as per usual on these events, the catering was absolutely superb.

The sun finally came out at the end but it was still a great effort by a very damp Clarion team – probably harder than Tour of Britain last week – but special mention to Giles who has gone from trailing in my wake on the hills to leaving me for dead.  I’m told it’s structured training rather than Spanish steak but either way it was an impressive display today.

Ride stats – 63.48 miles in 5hrs 13mins ride time – 12.1mph average.  6981ft of climbing and 4098 kcals used.