The ACU visit Braintree

I was somewhat surprised to see a post on the Army Cycling Union (ACU) site on Fri to say they were competing just up the road from me.  It appears that Round 1 of the National XC Series was being held at Codham Park, Braintree.  So after I finished my Audax (post to follow) on Saturday, I grabbed the boys and headed up to have a look.

This is a ‘proper’ mad sport!  The course is 6 or so km long and the guys do 5 – 6 laps depending on their classification.  They are on 29er Mountain Bikes (i.e huge wheels) and are racing up mad inclines, through woods and over the BMX track. They looked absolutely knackered but it was great to see them and to catch up with Tiny (yup, he’s 6’8”) and a couple of the guys.  It was also great to see so many Sappers on the Army team and the ACU take 1st and 2nd by a country mile in race on Saturday, though we didn’t fair quite so well on the Sunday.

If you want to find out more there are full details on the British Cycling site.  I’ve never seen any Cross Country racing before but it was fascinating.  I think I will stick to the road for now though!  Fantastic organisation by BC and well done to the ACU team


Some pics from the Sunday:

Why do Pigs like Sappers?

Sunday 23 March saw a big push for the country to get involved in Sports Relief 2014 by running swimming and cycling in a series of events across the country.  I had entered for this last October along with James from the Chase the Sun team and Ben, my middle Son.  The event we had entered started at the Lee Valley Velodrome, the gorgeous venue for so many London 2012 successes, and so I was also really keen to have a look around.

My last visit to the Velodrome, during the London 2012 Olympics

My last visit to the Velodrome, during the London 2012 Olympics

We had entered for the 50 mile ride, which was the longest on offer but shouldn’t be a huge challenge, especially considering the amount of training we have been doing.  However, in order to avoid the crush sometimes seen at these events with hundreds of folk pushing bikes up the slightest incline, I had booked for an early start.  As a result, there were a couple of logistic issues to address:

  • Ben, had only ridden 320 miles since he got his bike 8 months ago and prior to this challenge, his longest ride was a single 50 mile run around the local area.  However, 150 of those had been in the last 7 days as he was also supporting Sports Relief for his school (see previous blog below).  Was he going to be up to cycling 200 miles in 8 days?
  • Secondly, the 07.15 kick off meant we had to be up before 04.30 to load up the bikes, collect folk and get down to Stratford for the start.  I am not sure Ben was aware 4.30 occurred twice a day!
  • And finally, I had been invited to a Birthday Dinner the night before and so, fine wine, a large and delightful Dinner and great company would all be taking their toll on my preparation but not as much as getting home around 0130 before the 0415 rise!

After a quick change in clothing plans (stripping naked in the Westfield carpark to change out of my bib shorts) we made our way to the start with plenty of time to register and pick up our race numbers.  There weren’t too many people about but H&S meant we had to wheel our bikes through the Olympic Park teetering on our cleats.  Ben and James were both wearing identical tops and tights so it looked like Dad taking his two kids out!

Dad and the kids - or, I didn't get the memo on dress!

Dad and the kids – or, I didn’t get the memo on dress!


The day, though chilly started off well and just before 0715 we set off around the cycle track to start the ride.  The first few miles were a bit stop/start with loads of traffic lights and even some gravel tracks to avoid the traffic.  However, the signage was great and there were oodles of marshals.  We set off at a decent pace and passed a few groups early on.  As ever, we went out of our way to be annoyingly cheerful and polite, which is always amusing when people are struggling to wake up. By the time we reached Hainault, the course had opened up and we came to a series of hills (ok hillocks at best before my Yorkshire mates shout at me).  Weighing as much as James and Ben together, I am not great a hills but really struggle not to try to race up them.  Some of the slopes were gradual and long and others short and steep, nothing too tasking but they did start to take their toll on Ben who had already done 150 miles in the week.  I had been having some knee pain (probably due to over training) and so I was more than happy not to race speed snake James and instead to keep Ben company.  I was also really pleased I had made the change to tights as it did cool off quite a lot.  After 40 miles we had a quick comfort break, refilled the bottles and then pushed for the finish.  The cunning plan was to let Ben lead us in to take the glory of his excellent efforts throughout the week, unfortunately, James got a bit too inspired by some of the commentary over the tannoy and couldn’t stop himself sprinting for the line, leaving me in third place.  We completed the 50 miles in 3 hrs 24, at an average speed of 24 km/h which is pretty much the target for Chase the Sun.


Having collected our medals and snacks, we headed up to have a quick look around the velodrome.  It really is well worth a visit, if only to check out how steep the banking is, hopefully, we will get a chance to try out some track racing at some stage this year.

Lee Valley Velodrome


By this stage, the place was rammed but seemingly we were now allowed to rid around the park.  We had planned to have a look around the show but it was starting to get quite cold so we cut through to go and warm up in Westfield.  However, I was accosted by Wicket the (NatWest Cricket) Pig who had seen my Sapper Jersey and was desperate to get a picture with a Sapper!  I never did find out why she was so keen for the pic but, I guess you can’t blame the girl!

Why do Pigs like Sappers?

Why do Pigs like Sappers?

After loading up the car and a slap up meal at Mrs Miggins (Harry Ramsdens) , we headed back to Braintree.  All in all it was a great day, the weather could have been nicer but the organisation and route were superb and we had a great day out with great company.

Well done once more for Ben having covered 200 miles in eight days!  Chapeau!!

The route and strava details are here.

First Bling of FSS!


Stay Safe!


Rule 33

*** Warning, this blog contains images of a semi naked ginger bloke!***

Cyclists are a weird bunch!  We love to talk about our kit and we are all masochists at heart.  Why else would you seek out hills and peddle til you want to puke, just for a coffee and to scare yourself to death going back down.  We also talk a lot of crap!

I could say there is an un-written code to cycling but I would be lying.  It has all been documented (and even published) by the Velominati.

As you may have gathered, I have some pretty serious addiction issues.  When I was playing rugby, I had to play ALL the rugby and the same has been true for skydiving, skiing . . . even reading!  The baton has now been passed to cycling.

So when asked asked by Karen at Priors Green Beauty and Holistic Centre, if I had considered shaving my legs, I didn’t immediately laugh and say No!  Instead I checked the rules and indeed Rule 33 advocates ‘Shave the guns’.  There are many urban myths about why cyclists shave their legs but lets be clear, I am an old fat man, so removing a bit of hair will not speed me up.  It will, however, make it easier to patch me up when (not if) I come off.

Anyway’s Karen made a good case with tales of elite athletes and Jenna’s prowess with the wax.  Additionally, it seemed a good experience to collect that could be added to the challenges I am undertaking for Blind Veterans UK.  Before I knew it, I was lay on a bench in my skivvies with soothing music and scented candles, and a large pot of bubbling wax.  I have been to Priors Green for massages several times.  They are a great practice and both Karen and Jenna (the Bosses) look after me very well but this was a first for me.

It is true.  Jenna is a wizard with the wax (or should that be witch?  hmm).  She is quick, efficient and to be fair I did only squeal a couple of times but after 45 minutes of ‘treatment’ it did start to ‘smart’ a little.  Jenna, however, seemed to be having the time of her life!

Rule 33 - guns


And quite how ‘Shave your Guns’ became wax your legs, chest and back, completely escapes me?  However, there is a rule that covers that too Rule #5 ‘Harden the Feck up!’  (which incidentally, is the name of our team for Chase The Sun.  While it did smart, I was out an hour later for a quick 43 k training ride

Rule 33


I can understand why people usually get waxed for charity (cos it hurts) and have reaffirmed my appreciation for the fairer sex!

  • Have I noticed a difference?  Not yet but I will let you know when I crash.
  • Has it been well received?  Well, with a mixture of horror and fascination – I suspect some Sapper mates will be making me pay for it next time we meet up
  • Would I do it again?  Hmm lets see. . .

Even if you don’t fancy a wax, I would strongly recommend you check out and visit Priors Green.  They do a variety of treatments for he and she and are a great bunch.  I can especially recommend the hot rock massage, which works wonders.


I apologies for the scenes of semi nudity above.  However, if it inspires you to donate, you can do so above

Stay Safe and smooth!



Ipswich School Sports Relief Challenge


On 18 March, I was very excited to be invited to join my Son Ben in the first stage of a cycling challenge my Son, Ben had arranged for Ipswich School.   The school is aiming to run, swim and cycle 4000 miles (the distance from Ipswich to Ghana) to raise funds for Sports Relief 2014.    Ben decided to arrange a cycling event comprising of two 50 mile rides this week to Felixstowe and back.  This would be the furthest he has ridden this year and would be the first formal event in my training for Finally Seen Sense 2.

I finished off my final work calls of the day from home, with business attire from the waist up and lycra below and headed down to Ipswich to meet the team as soon as I could.  The weather seemed to have forgotten it’s promises of an early spring and had skipped straight to Autumn with an overcast sky, threats of rain and strong winds, not ideal conditions but not the worst I have cycled in this year.

The team comprised of 10 students supported by two of the Grounds Staff who were experienced cyclists and the Padre driving the sweeper wagon.  After the obligatory photo call, we set off around 1400hrs, with pretty much every genre of cycle being represented from full Carbon road machines, through hybrid and Mountain Bikes to one mini MTB / BMX mish mash.  There was a similar spread of experience amongst the students too with very few having ever ridden 50 miles before, let alone having trained this year.

Ben led us off at a decent pace to battle through the traffic in the Ipswich suburbs.  Humour was good pretty soon we were in the gorgeous Suffolk countryside.  If there had been a little more Sun and a lot less headwind, it would have been ideal but at least we would have the wind behind us on the way home, right?


Groundsman Will was the first (and for that matter the second) to get a puncture but we were soon on our way.  The guys did extremely well and kept the pace down for those on less agile machines.  However, poor Sam did end up working much harder than the rest of us on his mini bike. After a couple of hours we arrived at Landguard Fort and Ben again led the way with a dash to take a dip in the Channel!  Unfortunately we were 15 mins late for the cafe and so after refilling bottles we set off home.


Sam, was unfortunately forced to retire and kept the Padre company in the minibus and the rest pushed on.  The weather conspired against us again, with the wind changing so we had an even stronger headwind on the way back too.  This combined with time constraints, also took its toll and we had another couple of folk join the Padre in the van.  However, everyone continued to give there all and worked together to encourage those remaining not on road bikes.

We rolled back into Ipswich school past the beautifully maintained Cricket Pitch and Real Tennis Courts at around 1830hrs, having spent just over 4hrs in the saddle to complete day one of the challenge.

I am certain that several of the guys had not appreciated the challenge of a 50 mile ride without training.  However, I know they appreciated the sausage rolls, Sandwiches and quite superb Millionaire Shortbread that the Padre had laid on!  I was really impressed with how well they had worked together as a team, at the humour and especially the grit shown, especially by those who finished on MTBs.  I suspect that numbers may be  a little depleted on Day 2 on the 20th but even this jaunt had more than doubled the total covered by the School in their challenge to date

Chapeau to the guys who took part!

Thanks again to Ipswich School for letting me support them and well done to Ben for laying on a well planned event.  You can check out the route on Strava

I wish the guys all the very best for day 2 and wish I could join them (Ben will also be doing another 50 miles with me this Sunday from the Olympic Stadium)

I will leave you with some lessons learned:

  • Suffolk may be flat but it’s oh so windy
  • The Cafe at the fort in Felixstowe shuts at 1600hrs
  • Groundsman Will needs to get a new tyre (5 punctures in 3 days!)
  • and finally, Sam is one scary dude with huge kahunas, trying to cycle 50 miles on a comedy bike !!!


Stay Safe!


Afternote:  Huge Congratulations to Ben for completing part two today and taking well over an hour off the time!!  http://

Ian & Ben at Landguard Fort Felixstowe

Ian & Ben at Landguard Fort Felixstowe

Training Schedule

We were very fortunate to have a mild winter in Essex.  Don’t get me wrong, we had our fair share of rain and several rides with ankle deep puddles but we avoided too many storms and snow.  As a result we were able to clock up a fair number of Klicks.  In fact around 1500km of pre training to be precise!

We have now kicked into training proper and have built up a training plan which will have us riding over 4000k over the next 16 weeks in preparation for Chase the Sun.  We have entered into some events but are trying to keep costs down by planning rides ourselves.

CTS Training Plan

We also decided to measure our Functional Thresholds so we could set training zones to control our training and track our progress.  We did this using the sufferfest training videos, which were horrid but oh so much fun!

Turbo FT Testing

Matt and James, two of my partners in crime before it got messy :)

Just a short post for now – More to follow as we progress

Still learning this wordpress blogging lark!

Stay safe


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