Friday, 4 February 2011

Northern Exposure - The first full day

The first full day - Jules
4 Feb 2011

Having eaten our own body weight in cooked breakfast, we went on to visit the Defence Attache at the High Commission (potentially more media interviews to come!!!) to allow us to up date them on our plans and more importantly our safety protocols. This was followed by some shopping as I needed to buy thermal pants, in an attempt to keep the really essential bits warm!!! I also needed to purchase a lightweight knife and some lip-balm. It was a beautifully crisp and clear day in Ottawa with a temperature of about -10 so wandering around was relaxing and pleasant.

The eat-a-thon/crashweightgain continues as a pace, although neither of us appear to be showing any real sign of any weight-gain. That said we managed to eat the following each:

Full cooked breakfast including bagel, bacon, sausages, 2 x eggs, 2 x pieces of toast and a lot of coffee (Matt only) and a hot chocolate (Jules only)

French Vanilla Coffee, 2 x Tim Horton’s Doughnuts

Foot Long Subway Sandwich

Dinner - which was a large meal at a very good local resuranet which served local ‘First Nation’ specialities.

We were also very pleased to met up with 2 guys for dinner who have been essential in organising elements of the trip and in providing advice on how best to achieve certain things in Canada. It was great to finally meet them as all contact until this evening had been through email and the occasional phone call. The evening was simply outstanding and we learnt a tremendous amount from them both.

Everybody in Ottawa continues to be incredibly helpful; from restaurant, hotel and bar staff to bus drivers they seem to have incredible patience with what must look like 2 people who have just bought matching outfits from a charity shop, have funny accents and know absolutely nothing about Ottawa - yes, we’ve come across as complete villagers more than once today!!!

The Natural Lifestyle Awards 2010 - WINNER

Tasty, easy to eat bar that gives a good energy boost....

Read the full review here

Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Journey North Begins

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Cornwall to Wiltshire, a journey

Dan Norwood of River Niger fame recounts his snowy trip from 2010.

Cornwall to Wiltshire (Previously London!) 2010

Steadying the precariously top heavy bike, I gaze down the ice covered country
lane and wonder, again, about the sanity of carrying on with this hair brained
trip. It’s turning into more a of a yomp rather than a ride, with each north
facing slope glacial in its appearance, and each south facing one a stern test of
endurance as I attempt to pedal my single speed up yet another north Devon hill.

After visiting relations at Christmas, I’ve decided to attempt to cycle back to
London from the picturesque seaside village of Portscatho on the south coast of

From the off, I’m excited and motivated by the challenge. I’m confident with the
kit I’ve bought, especially the Ortleib panniers, and the availability of only one
gear seems but a minor inconvenience as I wave over my shoulder to the small
family gathering seeing me off.

With the wind increasing from behind, like a benevolent hand on my back, I
power out of the saddle and up onto the ridge towards Exmoor. I must be on the
limit of what this ‘city’ bike can take and I listen out for any sounds of complaint
from the cranks.

Stopping to take a few pictures, I notice a path winding it’s way into the woods
and wonder if this is the ‘Camel Trail’ towards which I’m headed. I slither onto
this icy track, turn the cranks a few times and the front wheel instantly breaks
away from under me. I’m on my back, legs in the air. A dog walker offers me a
hand and warns that the rest of the trail is equally as treacherous. Fortunately
it’s not the one I want, so I gladly re-join the monotony of the dual carriageway
hard shoulder.

The next opportunity I have of leaving the fast lane, I take with relish. I’m
already tired of the ferocious sounds of rubber on asphalt as each car rips
through the otherwise tranquil Exmoor scenery. There’s a gate, over which I
clamber, which joins some back lanes linking the villages on my route.

From now on the landscape becomes more and more rural, rolling snow-covered
hills filling the view of every crested incline. Some of the villages only now seem
to be re-connecting with the outside world having been cut off for some days.
Despite this there is still an eerie stillness to each community, and I can’t help
but feel watched as I roll on, picking out disappearing lines of country lane, as
the snow cover increases.

Light is slowly fading now as I approach the most treacherous descent yet. I still
need to add another 20 miles to my odometer, so there is no thought of easing
up, as I attempt to balance on my skinny Schwalbe marathons, and let gravity do
the rest.

It’s an impossible task. The equation of my load versus the pathetically
inadequate friction on this frozen track can only lead to some potentially serious
carnage. At this point, pragmatism takes over and I decide that two feet are
better than two wheels. The other side is far too steep to ride on a single speed,
especially with no run-up, and so the pattern for the next 24 hours is set.

At 6pm, I know I’ve covered enough miles to justify finding a camp spot. I’m in
rural north Devon and there are plenty of choices for spending the night out in
the open without drawing too much attention.

Rounding a bend, I spot a coppice of trees silhouetted against the pastel blue sky.
It seems like a perfect spot: the trees acting as a wind break and cover against
any overnight snow. I whip off the bike bags and launch them over the hedge,
hearing a slight rip in one of them as I do so. I promise to be more respectful of
my kit next time. Gathering up my belongings on the other side I wander over to
the pine trees. I’m not disappointed with my chosen camp spot.

The ground is soft and lint free. The pegs of my tent drive into the ground
with no complaint, and the whistle of the wind through the branches above are
already making me yawn. It’s a great spot, and literally yards away from my
route. I make some noodles, and hunker down as the mercury begins to fall.

After a blissful night’s sleep, I’m curious to find out more about my surroundings.
I emerge, bleary eyed, but quickly realize why this has turned out to be such a
good pitch. I find myself just off the fairway on the 6th tee of Holsworthy Golf
Course. I expect to see hardy players stride past at any moment, doing a double
take as they try and ignore the vagrant sheltering in the rough.

I’m quite disappointed when I realize the course is closed and no-one’s going to
approach cartoon like, red faced and brandishing a 7 iron. I do want to get going
though, so I get organized and cook up some porridge and brew some tea before
packing up. It’s surprising how long this takes in the bitter wind.

I’m on the road before 10 o’clock and feeling good as the north Devon
countryside slips by. Before the relative flatness of the Somerset countryside,
there are some monster descents and ascents to negotiate. Usually excited
by the thrill of near vertical descents, this feels foreign and precarious. The
panniers make the bike feel more like a horse trying to bolt over the nearest
hedge. It’s a huge rush though, and it takes the full length of the up-hill trudge to
wipe the smile off my face.

Like the day before I stop only briefly for an energy bar lunch, trying to make it
to Taunton before the end of the day. I’d rather stay on the planned route, away
from traffic arteries, but the legs beg otherwise. As the rain starts to beat down, I
re-join the hard shoulder of the A23 near Okehampton, conscious of my visibility
to soporific drivers full of turkey leftovers.

Spray soaks everything. My waterproof gloves can’t handle this deluge, but the
gore-tex socks work a dream. Concentrating on the front wheel, I avoid the ‘cats
eyes’, and focus on keeping a regular cadence in this dark, repetitive world. A
kind of meditative calm takes over, despite or because of, the wretched weather.
Nevertheless the miles creep by with frustrating lethargy.

Ten miles shy of Taunton, the warm glow of a roadside Inn proves too tempting.
I need to dry out, and given the temperature and my inability to shake my cold, I
feel it’s a wise move.

The Inn’s a popular stop-off during the summer months for the ‘JOGLE’ ride.
Tonight I’m the only guest, although there are a few punters hidden in the
recesses of the inviting bar. Cleansed of salt spray, I make the most of this
unplanned decadence, not holding back when it came to the restaurant menu,
and sleeping the sleep of the dead before an early start the following day.

I wake the following morning half expecting the wallpaper to have dropped
in my room from the amount of humidity my now dry clothes have produced.
Breakfast is devoured ravenously and I emerge into the day only slightly thick
headed before pointing my steed towards Salisbury, today’s destination.

I decide to gun down the major roads through Somerset. There’s not much to
see as the fields are shrouded in mist, so any scenic detours seem pointless. The
landscape is now gently undulating, and my speed increases. I’m desperate to
make as much ground as possible now and have really given up on my idea of
riding another day to London.

On an uphill stretch of the A358, a discarded Fererro Roche and a Satsuma
provide some festive additions to my Mule bar rations. Sadly, an M&S mince pie
box is empty. I take a picture instead.

Visibility decreases as the waypoints slip by. After Yeovil, Sherborne and
Shaftesbury. Both beautiful places, but this wintery fug hides their most
attractive features like a veil. Fortunately the A30 is quiet. Drivers seem on edge
and overtake me after serious deliberation. Oncoming vehicles help me read the
road ahead like brail.

At around 6pm I reach the familiarity of Wilton on the outskirts of Salisbury.
I’m shattered. The concentration needed to keep safe for the last 30 miles have
taken their toll. I only have the picturesque Woodford valley between me and
home and I ride/march up the penultimate hill with renewed gusto.

Descending into the valley I can only see a few feet past my wheel. Fortunately
there’s no traffic, but also no points of reference as I meander towards the river.
I’m tempted to turn my head torch off and rely on the clasped tree branches
overhead to navigate. At around 7pm I cross the river and head up from the

valley floor. I’m disorientated and take a wrong turn for a mile, but after
retracing, I crest the ridge at High Post and freewheel home.

I feel I could carry on: to fulfill the brief to cycle to London. It wouldn’t be that
hard. All the work had been done the last 3 days. Yet I felt that this was a dry
run, a test for another challenge, and not an end in itself. It had been a good
little, mad little adventure on a single speed, which proved that with a bit of
initiative, even the most unsuitable bike can take you a long way…

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Monday, 31 January 2011

Mule Anna Frost, 2010 TNF EC Champion!

To be honest, it was initially a big NO NO NO to the 50mile race. Far too long for me, too much pain, how would I train for that at the end of already an exhaustingly long and intense mountain running season?

But with inspiration fresh from meeting Kilian on his quest across the Pyrenees and Greg’s persistence I was entered. I stored this one in the back of my mind to mull over. I still had 6months of racing in Europe on the Sky Running Series ( the World Grand Prix ( as well as various other international events.

Results went a little something like this:

* 3rd World Grand Prix Series: World Mountain Running Championships 18th, Ebensee 2nd, Smarna Gora 6th
* 3rd Pikes Peak World Long Course Mountain Running Championships
* 1st TransRockies Run3
* 1st Grosglockner Lauf
* 1st Mt Blanc Cross
* 2nd Sky Running Series: Andorra 1st, Chaberton 1st, Gringe 5th, Kinabalu 2nd

With the final Sky race in Malaysia out the way I treated myself to 5 days on the beach. I knew I had a month of extremely hard training coming up…all the time I had to prepare for the 50mile.

I decided that 4-4.5hrs running at a time was going to be hard enough on my own in the winter Welsh fells, but not so much that I could recover quickly from it to do two of these in the same week. To get more mileage in without the impact I became a gym bunny and used the cardio machines everyday including the cross trainer, the spin bike and the rower. I also got out on my Mountain Bike in the winter sun. My entire body was going to have to work to keep me standing so I added some total body weights and core strength as well as some Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi to stretch and lengthen.

Here is what my training generally looked like for the month of November:

* Mon – 1hr running, 2 hours cardio machines, core strength
* Tues – 2hr run, 2hr cardio, core strength
* Wed – 4hr run, 1hr weights class, 1hr Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi
* Thurs – 1hr run, 2.5hr MTB, core strength
* Fri – 1hr Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi, 1 hr run, 1hr cardio, 1hr weights class
* Sat – 2hr run, 2.5-3hr MTB, core strength
* Sun – 4hr run, 1hr cardio, core strength

On top of this I stuck to a low carbohydrate and high protein diet to get as lean as I could for race day…I didn’t want to be carrying anything extra.

With a month of that out the way I was 3kg leaner, feeling fit as a fiddle and in San Francisco with the Salomon team as ready as I would ever be. Time to carbohydrate and fluid load and try to rest in such a fun city.

Race day came quickly and before we knew it we were off into the darkness. A trail of little head torches bobbing up the trail where we would spend the next 50miles looping around the Marin headlands.

Being a rookie I decided if I wanted to be like the best, I had to run with the best so set off in pursuit of Lizzy Hawker at a cracking pace and to my amazement that was how it was to stay for the next 7.45hours!

After about 2hours Lizzy gained a 1minute gap on me with strong and fast flat running and it wasn’t until mile 25 that I finally caught sight of her on the hill ahead. It was a rollercoaster emotionally and physically. Thankfully I had fellow racer and team mate Greg Vollett to help me at my 4hour demon marker and give me the call to go chase Lizzy down.

Pacer Matt Ward from mile 30-42 had a tough job to keep my head screwed on with me not being totally confident that we were on the right part of the trail. I was cheered through the 45mile aid station by the whole French Salomon crew and believing I was only about 3minutes ahead (in reality I was actually 12minutes ahead) I decided it had to be my fastest 5mile ever. It was probably my slowest, but I pushed myself to the limit, using every piece of energy I could conjure up, whether it was mine or the birds flying by or the river streaming along or the thoughts and love of the ones watching the live broadcasting. The last 400m couldn’t come fast enough and boy were they a long 400m. I was totally overcome with pain, exhaustion, emotion and happiness. A strange place to be.

I had done it. Won in the face of the unknown. Pushed myself into an extremely uncomfortable zone. I learnt so much about myself physically and emotionally. About the importance of our surroundings – natural and human, and how we can use its energy to lift us up when we are getting bogged down.

I’m not sure when and where I’ll be back to ultra running. But I do know my respect for the event and its athletes has shot through the roof.

Happy Running. Frosty

Mule Anna Frost, 2010 TNF EC Champion, Interview...

Mule Anna's win on DH Sunday, preceded by being beaten Saturday night (only by Danny MacAskill on a trials bike!)

Andy Waterman: Wicked weekend of riding with Damian Sell and Alec Briggs, screwed now, starving and hollow legged

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Two firsts for the Mules (girl and vets) + a third mule vet....

Message on the hoof

Will hotpants be banned?

Message on the hoof

Mulebar Girl Anna's first DH race- at the start..

Message on the hoof

Fight to the start...

Message on the hoof