All posts by Birdman

Riding a sine wave of emotion

I’m halfway up the eastern track, winding its way up the Worcestershire beacon, with a murky rural Herefordshire unfolding on my right. The wind is howling up, over and across the rolling hills beating my bike across the path. The going is tough, and whilst my mind is stubbornly focusing on reaching the top of the climb, it does waver briefly to reminisce about my experience last month at the Bristol Oktoberfest.


It was lap 3 where my race went awry. Having discovered that my “out-of-date” energy bars were well past the sell-by-date (a good year by all accounts!) I found myself heading out from transition onto my third lap with no food on board, and just a bottle of carbohydrate-charged drink to keep me going.


Mistake. After an enthusiastic start, only a quarter of my way into the lap I can feel the nauseous, light-headed feeling creeping in behind my eyeballs as a dreaded sugar-low begins.


“Just get yourself through this next section”. My minding struggles to push the empty legs on.


“C’’mon… …it levels out in 100 metres…”


I don’t want to stop on the incline, but my legs have lost all power and feel like I’ve donned a pair of lead ankles weights. The drain on my energy is so much that I almost come to a standstill as turning the cranks on the singlespeed steed takes its toll.


Then the incline levels out, slowly turning to a gentle decline allowing me to freewheel and reach into my back to grab my emergency gel blocks. I scoff half and swill the gelatinous mouthful down with the carb-drink.


Slowly the energy seeps back into my muscles and the light-headedness ebbs away, minutes more and I’m back on it and swooping through Ashton Courts finest.


Lesson learnt – no matter how unfit I felt before going to the event I really should have gone a little more prepared on the nutrition front. Mental note; also make sure you have an emergency pack of gel in your back pocket to get you out of a mess.


Back to the Beacon, and I’m cresting the top of the hill and whilst the wind threatens to rip me from the very spot where I’m standing, the view is grey but clear – it’s good to be alive.

Shaken to the core

2012. It hasn’t turned out to be the biking bonanza I had planned. Mountain Mayhem was, well Mayhem. Bontrager 24/12, Plympton was the epicentre of the bad weather of that weekend. SSUK cancelled, SSWC more than a pay cheque away. Every other inbetween local event happened to land upon some other family or otherwise-related event to cause an argument. I have just about given up and eagerly counting the months until I can start afresh. I want to hit 2013 with fresh legs, a revitalised mind and a positive attitude.

Ok, there’s a glimpse of fun in the form of the Bristol-held Oktoberfest, an 8 hour enduro that I’m much looking forward to. Any excuse to batter your way around Ashton Court at a million-miles-an-hour should be grasped firmly with both hands. And you’ll need those hands gripping the handlebars if you hit the trails at speed with the glorious flowing hard-packed sections laid in the last 18 months. It’s grin factor 10.

The only cloud hovering is the twinge in my lower back over the weekend. A stark reminder that the turmoil of the summer, recent working away during the weeks, a severe lack of bike time and the loss of any kind of exercise routine have taken their toll. Only last weekend, a singlespeed blast up-and-over the Malvern hills between a hectic work schedule feels literally as it has tore me a new one…

My core strength has gone.

So with a little under 4 weeks to go until Bristol’s Oktoberfest it’s all focus on re-building my core muscles. It’s the pillar of strength I need to do what I enjoy most – ride fast. My riding style is particularly demanding on my core muscles, climbing from the saddle rather than out – and any weakness is quickly exposed when saddled up on the Singlespeed.

If you find that you suffer from lower back pain or weakness in lifting then do investigate some simple daily core exercises – you will benefit hugely from it and in time feel and damn sight stronger. I include variations of the plank, leg lifts and sit-ups & crunchies in a daily routine, which never really exceeds 15 minutes and doesn’t require any equipment other than a bit of space to yourself.

Maybe you already have some simple exercises of your own – share them with us, I’m always on the lookout for a wider variety of routines to try out.

How much is too much?

When the spinning plates start dropping…

I can’t deny it; I do have a lot going on in my life most of the time. It has been my nature since I can remember, running clubs at school and long evenings out exploring the local countryside with mates on whatever ramshackle bikes we could get our hands on.

Getting older has just seen this evolve into career choices like starting my own business, life choices such as getting onto the property ladder, bigger & more sports and travelling a little bit further than the local countryside.

But have I bitten off more than I can chew this time?

Nearing my mid-thirties, and I find that my colleagues, friends & family all suggest the same (and with increasing emphasis) – Birdman, you are doing too much.

I’m a stubborn kind of guy, but I’m not blind to the fact that the ambitions I wanted to achieve this year are now suffering in what has become the plight of an incredibly hectic life schedule. There are more tasks than I can multi, and the plates farthest from my reach are wobbling with intent.

I find I revert to a student-like state hours before an exam. “What do I need to know, and what can I get away without reading”. I’ve been through that in the last 2 months and it isn’t a good long-term approach, and heavily fuelled by energy drinks and matchsticks.

How do you deal with it?

Answers on a postcard please…