Family Cycling at Mallory Park

What better way to spend the Bank Holiday afternoon than razzing around Mallory Park race circuit with the kids?

The attraction of traffic free cycling for my girls and their cousins was too good to miss, so we loaded up the bikes and headed off to a special family session put on by Cycling Mallory.  The girls travelled by car while myself and my newly converted brother -in-law took a scenic route on our bikes through a blustery Leicestershire countryside.

Family Cycling

Some of the family bikes

As always, the smooth circuit is a real treat to cycle on, and with the guidance of “going steady” we rolled down the hill towards the start and finish straight.  My eldest has just mastered how to change gear while moving on her outstanding Frog bike and it was great to see how exhilarating she found the high speed descent (we forgot about “going steady”).

Just as predictable as the smooth circuit is the wind as you turn around Gerards Bend.  As we turned in to the wind, my nephew asked how there can be another Gerard because there is “only one Steven Gerrard” but soon finished with the questions when he was puffing and panting in to the wind.  Both the 7 year olds found it a slog around the bend but soon picked up each time we hit Stebbe Straight.

mallory park race circuit

The Circuit

The first time round we cut out the hill going up to Shaws hairpin bend, making the circuit in to an oval shape.  Pretty quickly we caught up my wife and my youngest who were on their first lap and chatting away about the things they could see on the lake in the middle of the track.  The downhill start had been a bit intimidating for my 4 year old who has been cycling her bike for a couple of months so they’d walked down before starting.  But the thought of bombing down the hill again was too good to resist so the older cousins both headed up to the hairpin at the end of their next lap so that they could race down from the Bus Stop to Devils Corner and along the Kirkby Straight.

Devils Elbow

Bombing down hill

All in all, the older ones did 5 or 6 laps each, my youngest did a couple of laps and her other cousin who is 5 did 3 or 4 laps at a good pace.  Plenty of families turned up with budding young Froomes and Contadors, whilst others were there to enjoy a safe environment for their kids to ride until their legs ached.

We certainly got our monies worth around the 1.2 mile track – it was £5 per adult and one child – and all our little ones (and some of the big ones) could feel that satisfying ache in their legs as we loaded the bikes in to the cars and headed home for pulled pork cobs!

(P.S. I happened to get a 3rd place in the KOM along Burbage Common Road on the way home so I was well happy too)

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Cycling Mallory (and beyond)

It’s been nearly 3 months since I rode my bike outside.

The last ride I did was up to our hotel in Cerbere after crossing the Pyrenees in 99 hours and since then life has been about other things. Spending weekends with the family, doing some running (and injuring myself in the process), cheering on my eldest in her monthly cross-country endeavours, drinking too much and eating badly. The inner confidence I gained from the RAID has all gone and the sentiment of “There’s nothing I can’t do now” has somewhat dissipated and been replaced with “I’m doing nothing now”.

So after 3 short turbo sessions the prospect of doing the Evans Ride It! sportive from Mallory Park on Sunday felt rather daunting. Dragging myself out of bed before the crack of dawn was painful. Finding all my autumn/winter cycling kit had been a challenge and squeezing in to the Lycra again was slightly disconcerting. But it all started to come back to me when I left the house at 7:20 with my lights on to roll through the village to meet my mate Dave.

Ok it was colder and foggier than when I last rode my bike. I’m a fair few pounds heavier and sporting a winter beard but you can’t replace the feeling of rolling on a bike, flicking through the gears and feeling the rush of the breeze over your face as you pick up speed.

The event itself was well managed. We arrived early, signed in first and set off in the first group. By the time we started there was a long old queue for registration but that looked like the only hiccup of the whole event. And you can’t complain too much about that because we all got a free Hi-5 race pack for signing in.

We started off with a lap of the familiar Mallory Park race circuit before heading out to the equally familiar Leicestershire countryside. The weather had been kind to us and the fog lifted early to reveal clear blue skies. Pretty soon we were following the well signed route and warming up nicely.

Dave and I lost our mate Terry after about 20k. He’s done a lot more cycling since the Pyrenees trip and had good legs. I’d already opted to play it safe and cycle with 68 year old Dave so we were pootling along at a steady 14-15 mph when we passed the split for the short route.

With route options of Fun/30/50/70 miles there was plenty for people of all abilities and whilst the roads offered a few leg warming lumps, there was nothing too hard until we reached the short and steep rise of Orton-on-the-Hill. Even that nasty little kicker was done pretty quickly.

As you’d expect from Evans, there was a well equipped little feed stop after about 30 miles where the cake was moist and the water was chilled.

The 50 mile route we selected took in some of the classic Leicestershire sights on quiet country lanes which proved a perfect reintroduction to the bike for me. Soon after we passed Market Bosworth we were joined by one of Daves old cycling buddies so, as they caught up on old times, I decided to clear out the pipes and give it a good blast for the last 6-7 miles.

It was invigorating to know that the ride was nearly over and that I still had some fuel in the tank and I had a good push around the finishing circuit back at Mallory Park. In fact I snuck through the gates and did a second finishing circuit because I saw Dave coming on to the raceway as I neared the end. The track might look flat but there is a testing hill on the approach to the hairpin turn and you know that, at some point on the lap, you’re going to get a headwind too; so it’s never easy around there.

Anyway, with a final roll around the car park to bump the Garmin up to 50 miles it was with great satisfaction that I got off the bike and restarted my love affair with everything cycling related!.

If you’re interested, here is my Strava file of the day.

http://www.strava.com/activities/224973620/embed/a8543810eb8b6b22608c960ee934b8fcf82cf6c0

I’ll be back for the long route next year or maybe sooner if the newly formed venture of Cycling Mallory has anything else up its sleeve for us!

The Run of a Drowned Rat

The two pieces of information didn’t sit well with me.  Looking at the 14 mile run scheduled on my training plan and then looking up at the weather forecast had my mind racing.

What excuses could the devil on my shoulder give me that would make it OK to stay in bed rather than setting a 7am alarm for my long Sunday run?  My normal running parters, Jim and Leanne, had already given me a warning that they’d not be training if the weather was bad.  I’d already cycled 40 miles on Saturday morning…. surely it was enough?

But another look at my training plan showed that it was 15 miles next week and 16 the week after.  I couldn’t find a hiding place.  No excuse was good enough, so I set the alarm and got up in the dark to go out for the run I knew I had to do.

And I’m chuffed that I did!

It’s the fourth “long” run this year and I’m getting more and more confident each week.  Last weeks run was a bit of an epiphany for me.  I actually did what I’d say to everyone else: set off at a steady pace and kept it steady throughout – finishing with a better average over 13 than I had done over 12 the week before.

This week I satisfied my need for speed with a high tempo 6.5 miles on Friday so, once again, steady was the name of the game.  And it’s just as well.

As soon as I left the village I was running (largely up hill) in to the wind for 5 miles.  The wind. The icy wind.  The very strong, icy wind. The very strong, icy wind carrying very heavy, very wet rain.

I was delighted to turn out of the wind with an average pace of just under 8 min/m but I was completely saturated.  You know when you’re so wet that your feet squelch in your trainers? Yeah, just like that.  But I felt great.

Steadily bouncing along another 4 miles or so I reached the bottom of a steep climb (coming out of Croft towards Huncote in case you know it) but still kept a fantastic rhythm going.  I slowed a little after that though.  I lost concentration and started fantasising about what I was going to eat when I got home!  The prospect of scrambled eggs and baked beans cost me about 20 seconds on that mile!!  But as I turned a corner, my daydreaming stopped.

The sight of an overflowing ford known as Watery Gates reminded me that I’d had an easy ride in the elements for the last few miles.  The following wind had tricked me in to thinking that the rain had stopped.  So, it was with an impending sense of doom that I tackled the last three miles.

One more right-hander and I was head-on in to the elements again.  The steady, mile long rise combined with the stinging rain and battering wind made it the hardest mile of my training so far.  There was an upside to the conditions though: my legs were so cold that they didn’t ache, so I was able to push as hard as possible to keep the pace up.

After a brief respite, another battle in to the wind got me home with 14 miles on the clock and an 8.02 min/m average pace.  Spot on!  If I can turn out that sort of pace in those sort of conditions I think I’m in good shape to look towards sustaining that pace come April.

So if there are any fellow drowned rats reading this, give yourself a big pat on the back and recognise that it’s runs like the ones we did today that will make the difference when the weather turns.

(The eggs and beans were delicious too)

Trail Running Adventure

When the weather closes in this winter, a wet Saturday will mean only one thing for me …. trail time.

Slipping on my new trail running trainers I headed out across the local footpaths to get muddied up and enjoy all the lumps BYnXNwaIIAAKl1I.jpg-largeand bumps this part of Leicestershire has to offer.  Skirting around Stanton Lakes I soon found the first land mark of my run as I crossed a lovely little bridge that we know as Sophies Bridge.  Nestled half a mile or so in from the main road in the land covered by Sopers Farm is a little steel and concrete bridge over the Soar.

Don’t get carried away, the river is less than 5 meters wide at this point and generally shallow enough for kids to paddle in so it’s no raging torrent like previous adventures in the Peak District.  But it is a lovely, peaceful and lush spot to run through.  In summer months it’s worth heading down with a picnic and bottle of fizz that you can keep cool in the river.  We did that a couple of years ago with the kids for our wedding anniversary and it was a day that we’ll always remember.

But it’s slightly less serene when being run through in November.  So following the footpath I emerged to the village of Croft and headed off towards landmark number 2: Croft Hill.

1393728_10151694221437056_1916449761_n

There is a sheltered woodland path along the bottom of the approach to this man made hill so keeping an eye for protruding roots I paced myself up to a style to start the climb.  The hill is the result of years of quarrying in Croft and the steep climb is now covered in 734428_10151694221007056_811947761_ngrass and rabbit droppings!  Having walked up the hill pulling a sledge and a child earlier in the year, I knew how hard the gradient could be to scale.  But running up was a different experience and by the time I was half-way up my lungs and legs were burning.

Reaching the top was a relief and provided a welcome rest as well as stunning views.  The contrast in scenery between the dramatic drop in to the working quarry and the expansive Leicestershire countryside was breathtaking but I couldn’t afford to be distracted when I started my descent.  The winding path was slippery underfoot so required more mental strength than physical exertion until passing through the final gate and heading off to some flatter ground.

The unfamiliar paths were sodden after days of rain and pretty quickly my feet were saturated picking my way through the footpaths.  That was until the footpath seemingly disappeared and the terrain changed from grass to ploughed field.  It gets to be hard work when each foot is carrying a couple of pounds of mud, so the bright yellow sign pointing to another footpath was more than welcome.

Without stopping to think, I headed down the next footpath, following the trails until I emerged out of the farmland and on to a country lane.  The road looked familiar, but worryingly I was a long way from where I had planned to be!  Jogging down the road I kept looking out for another footpath or bridleway on which to make a shortcut home, yet it wasn’t long before I realised that an hour in to my run I still had 3 or 4 miles to go.1468574_10151694220787056_790507799_n

Just as I began considering calling Mrs G to come and collect me I rounded a corner to see a car stranded in a ford we know as Watery Gates.  Not being one to miss an opportunity to snap such a scene I whipped out my phone and took a couple of pictures before noticing a family looking at me.  It turns out that the daughter drove in to the ford last night while the water was running at 1.5 meters deep!

Checking my Strava feed I saw that I’d covered over 7 miles. So I called in some support before running another mile and being ushered on to an already muddy blanket for the couple of miles of my lift home!

Last years Big French Bike Ride…

Last year me and my mate Stu did something amazing and rode from our village in Leicestershire to Paris.

Me, Stu & Mr Tim

Me, Stu & Mr Tim

Supported by Mrs G and our friend Mr Tim, we arrived in Paris the day before the end of the Tour de France and enjoyed the magical end to the first Tour ever won by a Brit

It was awesome and can’t be described in a short blog.  Which is why I wrote a full account of it when we got home.

If you find a spare 15 minutes, have a read and see how we ended up on the Champs Elysees with Brad, Cav and Froome Dog

The Story of Stoney Stanton to Paris 

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?

Tips:

  • 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!