Wednesday, 11 February 2009

'Ouch!' and 'Yikes!'

Don’t get me wrong; I’m really enjoying training ‘Properly’, but flippin heck it hurts!

Functional threshold sessions feel more like A Journey Into The Death Zone and sprinting, (of the running variety) is just plain wrong. I know this to be true because the, ‘I’m being squeezed by a 20ft Anaconda’ sensation in my stomach tells me so.

On Thursday nights, I do a turbo session that leaves me struggling to get off the saddle (the contraption sits quietly in the corner for the rest of the week and is starting to develop the persona of a medieval torture appliance. I try not to look at it).

And now the positives!

I recover from these sessions far quicker than I would have imagined (when the hurt is on and I’m drowning in a pool of my own sweat). Pain is temporary blah, blah, blah… I finish feeling like I have REALLY done something. I AM getting stronger. I have the endurance ability so when this is combined with strength development I know I will be a faster endurance rider. Hurrah! Every minute spent on the bike now contributes to this. My weekends are no longer taken up with all day rides, lost on the northern fells…

Which at times I long for! Not to worry, Will is planning some of these rides into my schedule. The heart rate monitor will be left behind and I will be inviting my Partners in Crime to follow me into the unpredictable English countryside. The fish can only deal with so much routine.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Shap-ston Vasey

It was Charlotte’s birthday so we decided to have a romantic weekend in a B & B. In Shap. Heck, I spoil that woman.

It wasn’t just the romantic setting that drew us there. By amazing chance the Coast to Coast ran right outside the front door. Who would have thunk it.

Charlotte curled up with a good book in the window looking out over the beautiful white capped fells... whilst I went out and experienced the reality... half melted snow, sodden sponge like moss, and peat bogs that swallowed man and bike at unpredictable intervals.

I headed out past the reservoir and towards Mosedale Cottages. The climb up a sequence of hairpins was tough and it was a struggle to stay in my aerobic zone. Good pacing practice I suppose. The climb had a succession of switchbacks that would be great on the return... they’ll be even better come May. Surely it will be dryer and faster than this!

Dropping into Mosedale valley down peaty and rock strewn ruts, the words of a Shap local rang in my ears, ‘Hell, why you heading there on a day like this? It’s about the remotest spot in the Lakes....’ With swirling sleet and temperatures just above freezing it sure felt like a desolate place and the caution radar was turned on. Love this type of riding though; every sense is focused on riding cleanly, efficiently and precisely. I headed up past the cottages with the intention of heading over the saddle and towards Longsleddale. But the tussocks got thicker, the snow more compacted and tricky to negotiate, and it got flippin cold! You know how these days are; just above freezing so you get very wet. And very cold. Rough. I turned around.

The ride back was fun. Better this way than out. Which is just as well because this is the way I’ll be riding it in May. Yep, the hairpins were fun...

Anyway, we went out for a meal at The Greyhound. Highly recommended. As for the bed and breakfast... what an intriguing place... or should I say intriguing landlady. As time went on it became apparent that we were dealing with a perfectionist. Yes, it was twee, but if you looked beyond the style, the place was the work of an obsessive compulsive of the highest order. The toilet paper matched the porcelain tea service perfectly. Everything was in straight lines. The kettle in our room didn’t work and when we told her it was like a dagger had been pushed through her heart. She could not do enough to ensure we had everything we needed. The furniture was placed with feng shui like precision.

And then there was the breakfast... It was perfect (well, it would be after she asked us how we would like EVERY component element cooked). Presentation was exquisite. I complimented her on her creation, saying it was one of the best breakfasts I have ever had (which it was). The effect was akin to presenting her with an Olympic gold medal. But beneath the rapture was an expression that said, ‘Yes, I know it was the best breakfast you have ever had. That was exactly what I had intended’. It was like the film Misery but without the air of danger. I think.

She was intrigued by my Coast to Coast attempt and said she would do anything to help. I told her I would ring about 9am on the night of my attempt to order a cuppa. She will be standing outside with her gold rim porcelain tea cup filled with Earl Grey. I told her I needed to ring ahead as I couldn’t waste time whilst she boiled the kettle. She understood.

On the Sunday Char and I walked into Swindale valley. The steep valley head was spectacular with snow on the crags. The ground was frozen solid this time and it was incredible what a transformation a couple of degrees made to the ground and the landscape. A perfect unspoilt corner of the Lakes, clearly visited infrequently due to the lack of pubs and outdoor shops. Great.

An unusual and thoroughly enjoyable weekend. If you want a great place to stay in Shap, an unassuming town that has a really authentic charm, look up Brookfield House. Just don’t complain about anything; you might not make it out.