Happy Island

Thailand

At the end of September I finally got round to racing the 3 Peaks Cyclocross, such a good event! This year the weather was stunning, with an inversion in the morning providing a sea of clouds visible from the top of Ingleborough. I crossed the line a few minutes later than my target of sub-4 hours… maybe next year!

A week later and I was flying off to Thailand, my first journey to Asia. The first week was spent on Phuket, where we wandered around the locality, explored limestone archipelago by sea canoe and went diving. The landscapes, flora and fauna were beautiful, and the constant heat was lovely. Any time of day or night it was easily warm enough for T-shirt and shorts and the sea was probably warmer than many swimming pools.

Wat near Nai Harn beach
Wat near Nai Harn beach

Nai Harn beach
Nai Harn beach

Taking the sea canoe through a cave to a lagoon inside the island
Taking the sea canoe through a cave to a lagoon inside the island

Lovely limestone landscapes
Lovely limestone landscapes

Finding delicious food in the run up to the Phuket vegetarian festival
Finding delicious food in the run up to the Phuket vegetarian festival

Stunning coast line on Phuket
Stunning coast line on Phuket
We then took the boat via Koh Phi Phi to Ao Nang, where we spent a few days climbing in one of the most picture-postcard-paradise locations I have ever been. The Phra Nang peninsula is a great place to go for sport climbing with loads of routes and Tomb Raider style caves to explore!

Archipelago
Archipelago

Long tail boats at sunset shot
Long tail boats at sunset shot

Day one of climbing, getting high by the beach like Lana Del Rey
Day one of climbing, getting high by the beach like Lana Del Rey

A cave within a cave on a sandbag of a 6a
A cave within a cave on a sandbag of a 6a

Abseiling out of the end of a cave
Abseiling out of the end of a cave

Happy Island
Happy Island

A tropical storm rolling in, heavy rain to follow
A tropical storm rolling in, heavy rain to follow
The final leg of the journey was spending a few days in the incredible city that is Bangkok. It was fascinating to visit such a huge city of contrasts: ancient wats and modern architecture; bourgeois shopping centres next to slums; and delicious food with… durians.

Bangkok from the 67th floor
Bangkok from the 67th floor

Beautiful detail on the Grand Palace
Beautiful detail on the Grand Palace
I can’t wait for the next time I’m in this part of the world!

Moorland singletrack climb, clouds drawing in

Manx 100

Last Friday, we boarded a ferry in Heysham bound for the Isle of Man. The reason for our voyage: the Manx 100. After a crossing which felt like it should have been over sooner than it was, we were greeted on the promenade in Douglas by sun and and a sea breeze.

By the seaside at Douglas
By the seaside at Douglas

The pleasant weather continued through Saturday as we explored the town, stocked up on supplies and visited the Manx Museum. A few familiar faces appeared at the race registration, held at the famous TT grandstand in the evening.

Keen to get going
Keen to get going

Unfortunately, the registration was the only part of the race held on the sunny Saturday. Sunday morning started chilly but sunny although the clouds were soon covering more and more of the celestial dome. We soon found ourselves climbing up onto the hills after the first stretch of road. With what felt like too many layers on, at this point keeping warm was easy enough.

Moorland singletrack climb, clouds drawing in
Moorland singletrack climb, clouds drawing in

Climbing close to Snaefell on exposed moorland it became clear the wind was picking up and temperatures dropping.

Up on the hill, clouds getting more ominous
Up on the hill, clouds getting more ominous

Dropping down some really fun rocky Lake District style trails brought the route to the west of the island and some shelter in a forested section. It’s worth noting how enthusiastic, friendly and helpful everyone involved in the event was. The local riders taking part in the event always offered up hints and tips about upcoming trails.

Lots of friendly people helping out around the route
Lots of friendly people helping out around the route
Into the forest
Into the forest

After a long rutted climb a familiar stretch of road came in to view; it was the mountain road of the TT course I recognised from videos I had seen. I stopped for a quick sandwich and then got moving again.

On the famous TT mountain road, rain imminent!
On the famous TT mountain road, rain imminent!

A steep descent lead to a rocky track where I punctured and the rain started to get heavier. Clothes were quickly soaked through. Up to this point I was undecided whether to do the 100m or 100km route. My decision was confirmed as I felt my core temperature drop and hail on the tops started battering my face. At the point where the 100km route finished and the option was there to take the road back to Douglas, I couldn’t resist making the dream of a warm cup of tea come true!

We ate well that night and had another day in Douglas on Monday, spent mostly relaxing in cafes and by the sea. After a choppy start to the crossing back over the sea settled down and we were back in Heysham sooner than expected.

I can highly recommend the Manx 100, it’s a great way to see the island and ride the great trails on offer. I’ll have to go back to ride the trails I missed in the south of the island!

Race briefing in Roses

Transpyr and site update

I have just completed the Transpyr coast to coast mountain bike stage race across the Spanish Pyrenees. The numbers (7 days, 775km distance, 18,000m altitude) only tell a fraction of the story!

Race briefing in Roses
Race briefing in Roses

It didn’t start in an ideal way. My original partner got 14 stitches in his knee the week before so I was going at it solo from the start. Luckily I met loads of great people out there so was never short of company!

Some way into the first stage as the afternoon heat increased it became apparent that for me this event would be about finishing.
Throughout the week temperatures soared into the mid-40s and siestas were required on some stages; I’ve never before had to drink as much and get off my bike like that as these 7 days.

There was a lot of road and forest road but when you’re racing it’s amazing how quickly these surfaces become appealing means of traversing the terrain. There were some fantastic technical trails mixed into the route at points. It was a fantastic race, many thanks to the organisers for realising this event.

Tired bike at end
Tired bike at end

No pictures other than these unfortunately, but there’s a few on the Transpyr site to get a flavour of it.

In other news, as I have found myself guiding so much road biking I thought I would add a section on the site to reflect this service I offer!

Angle Tarn

Grizedale duathlon and Mountain Leader training

Sunday 15th March saw my first attempt at a duathlon in Grizedale forest, put on by High Terrain Events. The format was run/bike/run, which was fine by me until the second run when the new levels of pain appeared in my legs. I was pipped to the line by friends Ben and Heather racing as a pair, and triathlon enthusiast Pete who put in a strong performance, but managed to finish 11th overall and 8th in category, which I’m really happy with.

I’m a firm believer that you can never have too many skills on the hills, so the following day, with aching legs, I started the mountain leader (ML) training course. We had great weather which, along with the fantastic company, made the two days and nights of solid navigation on the expedition a lovely experience. There was a lot packed into the week and I’m really looking forward to getting out and practicing more night nav. Thanks to Stu and Andy at Climb 365 for a great time.

High Street
Snow levels on the high fells subsiding – High Street open for business!
Angle Tarn
Lovely spot for a camp site, complete with noisy geese.