Fun at School Cross Country

If you’ve got kids and they have the chance to get involved in cross country at an early age… do it!

My daughter is in year 3 – a junior – and her primary school holds weekly training sessions on a Monday with monthly events with other schools.  She loves cross country running and enjoys it even more because she has a good group of friends who also take part.  OK, most events are carnage with sharp elbows and lots of pushing and shoving followed by a few tears, a bit of chatting and a lot of walking, and that’s what the kids love!

Organised Chaos

Organised Chaos

But this weeks race was different because my little girl ACTUALLY DID WHAT WE TALKED ABOUT!!

She took it steady at the start.  So steady that I thought she was gassing with her mate when they were about 6 people ahead of last place.  And then she picked up the pace.

In the final two-thirds of the race she overtook half of the field by getting faster and faster.  She used her fast hands (imagine Linford Christie’s sprinting hands) and was taking deep breaths (after my pep talk of “I don’t want to hear you chatting, I want to hear your deep breathing”).

It’s fair to say that this competitive Dad is proud of his daughter.  Not for the place that she finished in the race, but because I know she tried her best.  Kids, eh?

Cross Country Fun

Last term my daughter began taking part in the school cross country races.  An over-subscribed after school club allowed her to train with her friends once a fortnight and monthly races at Prestwold Hall came along just often enough to keep her interested.

She loves running and I know that’s got a lot to do with her seeing me do different races over the years and now we’ve found something that we can enjoy together.

When I get home after a weekend run my little lady will come out for a mile or so with me. (OK, if you’ve read my last post, you’ll know that I’m recovering from apathy so it’s not happened EVERY weekend – but it has happened every weekend that I HAVE been for a run).

The mile is not only a great way for me to cool down, but a brilliant time for us to chat and laugh doing something we both love.

This weekend I talked to her about taking deep breaths while running.  We practiced this well for a while until the thrill/shock of running through an icy ankle deep puddle caused her to squeal!  She seemed to target the puddles after that and had a beaming smile the whole way around our little run. I’m sure the puddle-tainment contributed to her determination to run the whole way without stopping and giving me a run for my money (ha-ha) in the sprint finish down our road.

Running for a few minutes is a fantastic way of involving my daughter in one of my hobbies and is a great way of creating special moments across the weekend.


No BMX Bandit

Last Sunday we had my daughters birthday party at a local BMX track.

She’s been desperate to have her party there since we took the bikes up for a play a few times and it turned out to be one of the best birthday parties we’ve done.  The track is run by Huncote Hornets BMX club and their British Cycling qualified coach hosts the event.

Jan makes sure that the kids are safe and confident in what they’re doing whilst using the speakers and gates he’d normally utilise for competitions.  The kids jumped out of their skins when he first pressed “Go” and the pneumatic gate flew down with a crash in front of them, but it wasn’t long before they were racing around the cinder and tarmac track.

Birthday BMX Bandit

Birthday BMX Bandit

The bikes and helmets are all provided to the kids (if you want them) so my daughter and her cousin got all kitted up whilst others remained more confident on their own bikes for the session.  The little ones were allowed a go on their balance bikes before everyone grabbed a homemade picnic in the shelter of the cargo container that doubles as clubhouse and shed!

Taking the opportunity of a quiet time on the track, I grabbed a bike & helmet out of the shed with a few things running through my mind:

  1. The track record is 14 seconds
  2. The kids had been going round in 35 seconds (I had to beat that right?)
  3. Jan’s words of warning “the bikes are quite twitchy”
  4. An image of myself flying over the jumps, throwing some shapes and whizzing around the track

As the barrier went down, me and my mate Dan flew down the ramp.  All of a sudden my cadence was faster than I had expected and I was at the bottom of the first M-shaped kicker. In that instant I realised I didn’t know how to jump a BMX (I might have had a chance 25 years ago!!) and the indecision about what to do resulted in something spectacular! It’s been described as an airborne cartwheel on a bike.  And it hurt!



I ended up scraping my hands, knees and elbows whilst giving my shoulder, back and knee a battering in the heavy landing.  My daughter was first on the scene and handed me my bike and in true hero form, I grabbed it and finished my lap, then steadily started another two before taking stock of the bloody injuries!

So, as always, last Saturday was a school day.  Here’s what I learnt:

  • BMX racing is great fun – all the kids loved it and some have even begun the search for bikes and helmets!
  • 25 years is a long time off a BMX and they’re not like road or mountain bikes!
  • Safety advice is useful: all the kids were instructed to wear helmets & gloves and to keep their arms & legs covered (I ignored this)
  • As you get older, injuries develop slower – it was 48hrs before my knee swelled up and 72hrs before the real pain started in my back!
  • Huncote Hornets have got something exciting going on so we’re off to the club night to see how we get on…
Huncote Hornets

Huncote Hornets

Up Peak and Down Dale (the sequel to Reaching Peak Fitness)

After exploring on day one of our stay, I decided on a run rather than bike ride for day 2.  The commuter bike is OK but not up to any off-roading and I wanted to get closer to the country side.  So I pulled on my old trainers and set off for my first run in my new running tights and gloves.

Leaving our cottage at Hulme End I headed straight up hill over the Manifold River and swung a left to run along a small lane parallel to the camping and caravan site.  I was stunned to see some hardy campers getting ready for a days trekking in the wet and blustery conditions.  But probably only as stunned as they were to see a bloke in fluorescent yellow gloves and jacket run past them for fun!

The lane was about a mile long and came out on a small cross roads.  With no particular plan for my run I decided to follow the signs for Beresford Dale, and after a another mile or so the lane came to an end as it was met by another fast flowing river.DSC_0127

So far I had been running on Tarmac and had managed to avoid any of the bigger puddles beginning to accumulate as the rain water ran off the surrounding fields.  Now though, the terrain changed as I headed along a trail next to the river.

The landscape changed from fields and hills in to something resembling a rain forest.  It was stunning.  Heavy rainfall had boosted the river and it was roaring along its path as I ran past a couple of Dippers.  These beautiful birds are generally pretty scarce but can be found around several of the rivers in the area.

Flanked by rocky cliff faces on both sides, the sounds of the river was impressive and after stopping for a few pictures on a bridge, I continued along the path.

Eventually I emerged over a stone wall on to a footpath across the dales.  Out in the open once more I realised how heavy the rain had become and the uneven grassy surface was quickly becoming treacherously waterlogged.

Continuing at a slower pace with unsteady footing I followed the path up hill and down dale before passing through a muddy gateway.  This is where the elastic laces of my old tri-trainers were found wanting.  Having selected a slightly less muddy route through the gate I did my best to skip through the mud and find some more solid ground.  But failed dismally when the mud sucked the trainer right off of my left foot!photo

Unable to immediately convert my running action to a hopping action meant my foot went in to the mud and my sock was instantly saturated.  So I decided to take a photo to capture the moment, figuring that I was wet anyway!

Slipping my trainer on over the muddy sock, I reached the end of the cross country section of my run and arrived in Hartington.  A final couple of kilometres along the slightly busier road got me back to my cottage safe and sound where the process of drying out and warming up began with a cuppa in front of the fire.

I loved the unpredictable cross-country run and will be doing more of it as I train through the winter.  But I’ll be hard pushed to find anywhere as spectacular until I go back to the Peaks.

Reaching Peak Fitness in Derbyshire

Soz, that’s a complete pun.

Since the 10k race a couple of weeks ago I’ve barely trained.  My Achilles has been aching since the race and work & studying has been mental.  So I’m nowhere near peak fitness. But I’ve had a cracking few days in the Peak District where I’ve managed to get training again.

A view of the Manifold Trail

A view of the Manifold Trail

Staying in a cottage at Hulme End on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border has provided a stunning location for getting out on the roads and trails.  Every first morning needs a scouting mission.  So heading out on my old commuter hybrid bike (now with the bike seat bracket attached) I set off down the Manifold Trail.

The trail runs down the side of the Manifold river so it’s fast and flat but surrounded with stunning scenery. After a mile in the open, the river drops down whilst the trail stays high and the hillside provides shelter from the outside world. The leaf covered path winds parallel to the river, passes under an old railway tunnel and over the occasional tributary whilst constantly flanked by sheep grazing on steep hills.

After 4 brisk miles my scouting destination arrives in to view. Thors Cave looms directly in front of the path, 75 metres up in the rocky hillside on the opposite bank of the river.  It’s an impressive sight, by no means the only cave overlooking the trail, but the only one with some kind of path to aid the ascent.  Pretty quickly I was able to tell that this was going to be a great destination for the kids and a good target for my eldest to ride to on her own.

Me and Thor's Cave

Me and Thor’s Cave

The return journey is moderately more challenging than the outward leg with a slight incline most of the way.  Passing just a few other casual cyclists and the odd dog walker, the ride takes no time at all.

That is a different story when we do the ride with the girls the next day. The round trip takes us two hours.  But this time the adventure included a walk up to Thors Cave, a celebratory photo shoot to mark the achievement of a 2 & 6 year old both scaling the rocky path unassisted, and a game of eye-spy all the way back!!

Losing a bit of my masculinity

I had a dreadful moment of realisation today when we cycled the kids to school. I’ve allowed something small to change and with it, given up a bit of my manliness.

It’s nothing to do with doing the school run because I think of that as a real treat if I am ever able to do it.  I love getting to the school and watching how the girls behave in an environment which is far more familiar to them than it is me.  Sometimes I feel really out of place, but others it is just like being in my local pub on a Sunday afternoon 10 years ago.  We’ve all moved on.

No, the school run is a great thing, especially when it is a school cycle.  But it’s the cycling that is part of the problem.

A few weeks ago, Mrs G decided she wanted to cycle alongside me with the girls whilst I went for a run.  To do this, I had to move the child seat from my bike and on to hers.  ON TO HERS!!  This had never happened before.  Towing the kids has always been my job.  DAD’s job!

I’ve always been the one with stronger legs from running and cycling.  The one with a bit more balance and confidence for these things.  But now all that masculine superiority has been dashed…. she can do it too!!

Even worse – for weeks I have been trying to find a spare bracket so that we can easily switch the seat between the bikes.  But the bike seat is so old that I can’t find one that fits properly.  So without refitting bits and pieces with allen keys and spanners every time I choose to reassert my manliness, I have got a dad-bike that is missing a bit of dad-ness!

How do you get kids balancing on balance bikes?

We’ve just come back from our amazing holiday in France.  Whilst we were there, the whole family enjoyed going for bike rides and our favourite is undoubtedly the one we did with a picnic to a grassy little spot under a tree on the side of the Loire.

At the moment, my youngest is still in the child seat shouting “faster, Daddy, faster” but my eldest is now super proficient on her 14 inch wheels.  During the holiday she has also mastered cycling out of the saddle, cycling with one hand and (crucially) she has a great sprinting face and fast elbows!  Anyone who missed Wiggos fast elbows in the Tour de Romandie last year can see the final sprint on You Tube

Anyway.  We’ve arrived back to Blighty and the little one has decided she wants to get cracking on her balance bike.   We’ve decided to opt out of stabilisers given the types of advice we’re read on places like Isla Bikes and discussion forums such as Bike Radar. But how do you get the little ones started on a balance bike?

Our first attempt has resulted in back ache for me and very little balancing for the little one!  Maybe it is just patience but if anyone reads this and has a bright idea I’d be happy to hear it!


They’re calling it Mallory Madness

This is Mallory Park

This is Mallory Park

Last week we heard that Mallory Park, the race circuit near where I live, opened its gates to cyclists on a Wednesday night so we went down to take a look tonight.

From 6pm half of the circuit is open to everyone while the other half is used for teaching/training kids.  By 7 the whole circuit is open for you to pelt around as fast as you can.  It’s about 1.3 miles around the lap, the record is 2:35ish and I got nowhere near that!

On the face of things, riding around a lap for an hour doesn’t sound that appealing, but adding in the mixture of a fantastic road surface, no cars, a reasonable amount of undulation and a few mates to pit yourself against and it soon turns in to your very own race circuit.  As I write this post, my legs are gently aching so I know I’ve had a good work out.

What fascinated me was the activities going on in the pit lane. A number of adults were coaching kids on bikes ranging from little ones with stabilisers through to pre-teen sized road bikes.  It looked like a straightforward bike handling set up using cones and plenty of supervision and I think it is coordinated by the Leicester Forest East Cycling Club.  Probably worth a look for a cycling family?


  • Don’t turn up too early if you haven’t got the kids with you
  • Bomb it around the top hairpin because the camber keeps you turning
  • The start/finish line for Strava laps is the white line on the straight, not the bridge as I thought until I got home!
  • Take a £2 coin … the fella at the gates is going to run out of change for fivers one day!