Winter time for me is about focusing on catching up more with mates and taking things a little less seriously then come the summer time I try and stave off the beers and mixed grills a bit more. This year has had the added dimension of little Rory joining the party so it’s been a balance of keeping the legs ticking over whilst spending time with the boy and family.

So far the balance has been pretty good with the only downside is that my near perfect record of not getting colds or illness in about two years has taken a downward turn as the added fatigue of parenthood has made me a bit more susceptible to being run down and getting lurgy.

Still, I’ve managed to get a few decent adventures in recently including the ‘Madax’ (a 60km self-guided mtb event round the Cotswolds) and a big long day mission including a mountain bike race in the morning in Norfolk then a Suffolk-Oxford 100 mile road ride in the afternoon.

The Madax is organised out of Slam69 a well reputed shop up in Gloucester and promised to be a good day out in the hills. It’s not a race but a couple of quick mates being on the start line meant we would at least tick round at a decent pace. I’d planned to ride with my buddy Alan and by chance locally famed Andy Deacon of Slam69 and fatty lover ended up being our guide for the day as the three of us ticked off the miles in the hills. The route took in some great flowing singletrack and actually didn’t include as much road as I had thought.

After some seriously sticky sections though we were relieved to have some easier spinning in between the slop. This would be a fab summer loop so there was already talk of doing it again when mud doesn’t stop our tyres turning. Having to carry my bike across a ploughed field wasn’t much fun! We were the first three back for tea and cake although many had already taken short cuts home due to the testing conditions. A good day out though and great cake! It was also good to test out some new bits and pieces from my new sponsors Funn including some lightweight 200g Tactic pedals and chain rings. So far so good on that front.

A week later our family was over in Suffolk for a wedding on the Saturday but I had to get back to Bristol for work on the Monday whilst Sarah and Rory stayed on for a couple of days. Rather than have to do a mission to get the train in to London and back out to Bristol on the Sunday I obviously choose to use pedal power to get me back. I had spotted an xc endurance event an hour north of Suffolk at Shouldham Warren so to start Sunday’s adventure I entered that one run by Kings Lynn MTB club. The three hour event promised some fun thrashing around in the woods with a decent quality field.

Unfortunately, the night before was the start of some mechanical issues with my to be used later that day road bike. Long story short involving exploding inner tubes, failing tyres etc. meant that I turned up for the mountain bike race knowing I needed to get to a shop afterwards to buy a new tyre and fit it before setting off on the afternoons adventure. So I planned to ride for about 2 hours before an early departure.

The course was fantastic and really dry with top notch organisation. My focus on planning the days adventure didn’t go entirely smoothly given I’d forgotten the minor detail of entering until the entry had actually closed. Fortunately the organisers agreed to add me in at the last minute. Baby brain does occur at times!

The aforementioned dad cold was lingering around and I definitely felt the burn more than normal when the trigger went on the very organised gridded start! I wasn’t quite at the sharp end but not too far off all considered although snot was streaming down my face most of the time. Something that did strike me as odd was two people riding together from the same team with one seemingly towing the other. A bloke leading out a lady the whole way, is this allowed or just frowned upon in mountain bike racing? Seems a bit odd given the lady was clearly a really strong rider in her own right.

When the 1.5 hour race joined the 3 hour gang I found myself perfectly placed to join the back of 50+ riders so at that point it was game over anyway in terms of gaining any places. But bigger miles were on the mind so I sat up for that lap then pulled in and quickly got sorted for the next part of the day.

A quick pit stop at Halfords for a tyre change on route to the vehicle ditch point still didn’t entirely help the fact that my wheel wasn’t allowing the tyre to seat properly making for a somewhat bumpy back end. The mission then turned in to getting myself 100 miles to Oxford to stay overnight with some relatives before getting the train back the rest of the way to Bristol at the crack of Monday morning.

It was a clear but cold day and unfortunately there was a bit of a stiff headwind. It became obvious that it was going to be a tough day with 2 hours hard xc racing in the legs in the morning, sitting down for 90 minutes before then setting off again which made my limbs a little stiff! Nevertheless I got going on the trusty commuter bike which I’d even treated to a mudguard removal to bring it down to a featherweight 27lb.

Luckily it was super flat most of the way which was a good thing as my legs were a bit dead and my snot was at drinkable levels. I was making good progress though despite this but was pretty much head down smashing it out to take in much of the scenery (Milton Keynes isn’t that scenic anyway…). A puncture outside of Milton Keynes then some horribly muddy NCN sections slowed me down quite a bit. I had eaten loads during my hour long car journey in between the two rides but it’s amazing how quickly your metabolism fires up in to overdrive and I ended up nearly bonking 25 miles from Oxford as the headwinds and fatigue got on top of me a bit. Petrol stations always make for good refuelling points!

I got to Oxford late evening and my uncle had made curry, yes! Double helping and a big bowl of ice-cream for the win before a few hours kip and up early to get the train to Bristol. Even then I had to cycle a few achy miles back down in to work but I took the chance to get a bit of stretching done in the vestibule on the train much to the amusements of other passengers.

So a lot more faff than I had intended in general. It was good to do some motivation training and good old character building none the less as I didn’t quite have time this winter to plan my usual big random challenge like the South Downs Double a couple of years ago.

Nothing major in the diary now for a little while so a good time to keep building the fitness and keep myself and family healthy and happy.