Monday, 17 November 2014

Cannondale Fat Bike teaser photo

Since I first saw an On-One Fat Bike, the 'Fun Fatty', I knew that I'd want a Fatty of my own. They look a lot of fun and hopefully will open up a different dimension to old trails and new ones too. But I'm also a brand-lover and Cannondale currently has my fancy, and so for the past year I've been scouring the web, press releases and forums to track down any rumours or at best a pic.

Typically, what I should have done was to follow RideCannondale's official Instagram account and check out this pic they posted in September 2014. Click the image for the full size version or click the link above to see it on their Instagram.

Cannondale Fat Bike

There's not much to go on, as clearly this is just a teaser, but what I can see is that:
  • It's a confirmed Cannondale Fatty
  • It's using a Lefty
  • It's a hardtail
  • It's using wide rims and tires (not just a 29+)
  • It's running a 1x drive train
  • Cables are full outers from shifter to mech
  • The spec suggests a light weight build
  • It looks awesome to me
  • It's probably not going to be cheap

Cannondale Fatty

It would be a shame not to use the moniker 'Fatty' as a name for it, as they do for their brand of rigid forks. I also do hope that they offer a rigid version with a Fatty fork to help reduce the price, as Lefty's aren't cheap.

I'll keep my eye out for more news and will share when I see something exciting, but thus far, I'm pretty excited!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Changing the cog on a Cannondale 29er single speed (Formula DC-52 hub)

If like me you have a Cannondale Trail SL 29ER single speed, then at some point you may want to remove the cog that's on the rear wheel. It's really easy to do and even if you're new to working on your bike yourself, so long as you have the right tools, it's something you can do in under 10 minutes.

Generally, for Shimano and Sram cassettes on a mountain bike you'd need a cassette lock-ring tool, a chain whip and then 30 seconds to use them.
Formula DC-52 single speed hub
It's similar for the Formula hub you'll find on the Cannondale, but you need to swap out the traditional lock-ring tool for a lock-ring wrench.

Oh and for those wondering what the hub actually is, it's a Formula DC-52 single speed hub.

Here's what you'll need to remove the lock-ring

5 steps to remove the cog

  1. Remove the rear wheel from the bike and also remove the quick release skewer
  2. Add the chain whip to the cog, so that you can apply pressure to the chain whip and stop the cog from turning on the freewheel
  3. Place the fixed gear lock-ring wrench (using the 41 - 42 mm end) on the lock-ring
    (be aware that the wrench can slip off in between the lock-ring and the cog if not placed properly on the lock-ring)
  4. Unscrew the lock-ring counter-clockwise
  5. Once loosened, the lock-ring can be removed by hand. You should then have
Once you've removed the cog, it's recommended to give the cog, lock-ring and the hub free-wheel a good clean up. That's what the kitchen roll and Muc-Off is for.

At the same time, it's worth inspecting all of the parts for damage.

When you come to put it back together

Add a teeny amount of grease to the lock-ring threads. We're talking a teeny tiny amount. Excess grease just attracts dust and debris. The grease (or you can use some anti-lock thread compound) will make it easier to take it apart again in the future.

Also, you won't need the chain whip to put it back together. Simply screw on the lock-ring, clockwise, and then tighten up with the wrench.

Check everything moves as expected and re-fit the skewer (obviously you'll clean and re-grease that too, right. Right?) and put the wheel back in the frame (well, duh).

Hope this helps someone out!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

What's the difference between Shimano E-type and E2-type front derailleurs?

It's frustrating when companies sell you things that look the same, but give them different names.

So, in order to help others in the same situation, here's what I've found out about the E-type and E2-type bottom brackets from Shimano.
  • E-type front derailleurs come with bottom bracket back plates
  • E2-type front derailleurs don't come with a bottom bracket back plate
  • Both are specific to the size of the chain-rings on the chain-set (with room for marginal change)
  • Both have the same mounting holes (if you remove the back plate from the E-type)

S3 direct mount

Curiously, E2-type derailleurs are also known under the direct mount standard 'S3'. They both work with the same mounting holes and designs. As will a newer E-type with the back plate removed.

I'm yet to find any evidence than an E-type is different from an E2-type (except for the back plate). I would however recommend you purchase a compatible E2-type as there has to be a reason for the different naming convention, right? Guys?

Technical diagram

Below is a Shimano technical diagram showing the different versions from a standard front derailleur through each of the 'E' type configurations.
  • No mount
  • E with bottom bracket mount
  • E2 mount
  • E with no bottom bracket mount

Hope this helps someone!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Greensand marathon 2014 race report

I had counted the runners who had gone past me and I was in 7th place at the half-way turn. All was going well and I started to hope for a top 10 finish. I pushed hard and started putting distance between the 8th and 9th duo behind me. It couldn't have been going any better.

Oh, Tits!

And then, well, then it all went tits up. The image below and to the right shows an additional 270 foot vertical 'detour' (down and then back up) I took because of an errant ticker tape marker which had come of a tree. By the time I got to the bottom of the hill and realised my mistake, and then sprinted (which was doubly stupid) back to the top, I had to be placed in the 20s at least. I saw people I had passed a long while back and whilst not upset or angry, I was a little gutted.

Dashed were my hopes of a strong placing and feeling the pain from the uphill effort, I settled into the idea of damage control and to just get the job done.

I still felt great at this point, and was bounding along taking 'scalps' along the way, but the niggling pain in my groin muscle coupled with the burning in my un-trained legs (yup, again no training. I'll learn one day) slowed me down a short while before Leith Hill.

The offending hill
It was around this point that I met a lovely bubbly lady, whom I sadly didn't catch the name of, but we got chatting and she became a good companion for a few miles (I now know that this was Nina Campbell, 2nd lady). She was really strong and stayed positive the entire time. My legs however were getting worse and I saw her disappear out of view as I answered natures text. I was then met by another lady (Julia Donovan, 3rd lady) who was going at a similar pace and using her as a 'running bunny*' I tagged along for a while. And on a side note, I could only wish to have calves like hers, sculpted would be the best description! Anyway, things were going well, but the pain was intensifying and every few miles meant a short stop to stretch out the legs. I lost the bunny to her dust at the final checkpoint and met a chap and both jogged it home chatting about the hardships of the day and other silly hilly events, like the Picnic and the Midsummer Munro (both by Trionium events).

By the finish, I'd forgotten about the top 10 hope and accepted my fate. It was only a hope after all. Though, running with others and enjoying the chatting was just as good a highlight as a top spot would have been.
Me with Nina, 2nd lady
coming up to Leith Hill

The course

I was expecting deep puddles like last year, but nothing of significant depth was found. There were a few boggy parts along the route, but I only actually had trouble running on the road with my trail orientated Brooks Cascadias, where I kept slipping running up a hill. Regular trainers would have done just as well across the course.

Leith Hill is probably one of the highlights, but you never have time to stop and enjoy the view. It's the same with all of the other view points. I really should invest in a camera that I can snap in a few seconds and then carry on running. But anyway, at Leith Hill and other places it's great to see a lot of people out and around there cheering you on.

I was surprised by the number of mountain bikers out and about. There were hundreds of the buggers. As a fellow biker myself, I'll certainly have to consider coming back for the trails.

Oh, and the 'worst' part of the course is the last hill at the end. The one with the steps. Last year I ran from the bottom to the top with no problem, but this year I started my ran up and did two steps on the stairs before my calf spasmed and put an end to all that bravado.

Home for tea, medals and a carrot
Firmly put in my place, I jogged the final sections and came home with, and I didn't get their name either, the chap I'd be chatting with for the past few miles.

Would I do it again?

Yes, It's a great event. The camaraderie, the organisation and the challenging trail all add up to a good value fun event. It'll definitely be on my list for next year. This was actually my second Greensand marathon the other being last years rain soaked character building slog.
Greensand marathon

Thanks to Rob and the marshals

Yet again, another great event put on by Rob. The team did a great job and the marshals and helpers all along the route were cheery and encouraging - A big thank you! Also, thanks also for the great medal at the end, the t-shirt, cap, and of course, the carrot!

Garmin data for the nerds.

*Running bunny. A person who is running at the pace you want to run at and requires you to merely follow / keep-up.

Photo credits to Susannah Sutton and Laureda Tirepied.

10 reasons why I loved Afan Forest's Y Wal (The Wall) trail

I live in Berkshire, UK and regularly have the pleasure of riding the Swinley Forest mountain bike trails. I ride the blue with the dog and the red for myself. I mix it up between a single speed and a 5 inch trail bike, and un-expectantly, the speed at which I get around for both is averagely the same.

They're capable bikes and when you get to know a trail well enough you can almost ride them blindfolded. But there's only a certain number of times you can ride a trail in different ways, bikes or conditions before things start to go stale. And that's why, on a cold and wet day in October, I decided to head to the colder and wetter place of Afan Forest in Wales.

Top 10 reasons why I loved the Y Wal (The Wall) trail

  1. It starts easy. There's a bit of a climb and then down onto an open hillside. Perfect warm-up
  2. The boring parts are simple. To go down, you need to go up. And fortunately for Y Wal, the ups are mainly on wide smooth(ish) tracks, that although make ascending a tad boring, you get to the downs so much more quickly
  3. The terrain changes. I went from open land, to mud, to gravel, to leaves, to rock, to soft groud and back to rock, which offers variety and keeps things interesting
  4. The smile on my face got bigger all the way around. I loved the first little bit, I genuinely did (honestly, it's the most basic bit ever), but it got me started and then I loved the next bit more than the first and then the next bit more than the first and secon... you get the point. The last part of the trail, the Graveyard, was easily the best bit of the whole ride
  5. If you go mid-week, like I did (a Thursday morning) it's utterly empty. I didn't over-take anyone, didn't have anyone over-take me and in fact the only people I saw, except for two groups of mountain bikers trying to solve a mechanical issue by gathering around and staring at it, was only the occasional dog walker along a track
  6. Getting there is really easy. Get to the M4 > Go to junction 40 > Follow signs to Afan Forest Visitor Centre > Ride
  7. The trails start right from the car park too and they're sign-posted so there's no faff or searching to get started. Costs only £1 to park for the whole day too
  8. The trail is a loop. If you want to go around again, you can turn back onto the trail before heading back to the car park and bypass the most basic part of the trail
  9. There are no jumps along the trail. It's always a challenge to ride a new 'red' trail. Does this mean jumps and drop offs? Will I fall and be all on my own for the foxes and owls to devour? For the Y Wal trail, no, not at all. There are places where you can jump, but that's only if you make the concerted effort to launch yourself off rocks and trail features
  10. The trails are named. At Swinley, all the trails have names and I have no idea what they are; it's only for those in the know (or probably a 5 minute Google search). At Y Wal, and presumably across all of Afan Forest, the trails are sign-posted which means I know where I am should I come a cropper
The views were amazing before the fog rolled in

Will I go back?

For sure. Next time though I'll probably ride the W2 trail, which is a combination of the Y Wal trail and White's Level. It's graded black, but that's because of the duration. It's essentially two reds back to back.

Garmin trace of Y Wal

Trail guide

Download the Y Wal trail guide from the Afan Forest Park website.


I took my 910XT with me and recorded both loops separately. Here's the data for those interested.

Lap 1 and lap 2 of Y Wal, Afan Forest.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Using a USB charger to extend the battery of your Garmin on the move

I'm lucky enough to own a Garmin 910XT GPS watch. It's fantastic as it gives me insight into how hard I've trained, where I've trained and then neatly bundles all the data into a website for me to review later on. Lovely.

However, the battery life, even on the 910XT which is designed for long endurance events, isn't able to provide enough charge for a long distance ultra-marathon. For a 50 miler, the watch is fine. But for a recent 86 mile event, that took 19.5 hours, I was glad I'd used a USB battery back at the halfway point to recharge.

What USB charger do I use?

I wanted a tough water and knock proof battery that wasn't too heavy, could hold a good deal of power for not only my watch but potentially my phone and be easy to operate in the dark (and whilst I'm tired).

I settled on the EasyACC 9000mAh charger from

It was a bit of a bargain at £26.99 and came with cheap compass and carabiner (which I junked both of). as it's USB based, you can charge any USB based device from it as well; such as my iPhone and iPad. Perfect for holidays and long days out.

What I did to keep my Garmin alive in an ultra-marathon

I had a half-way point that offered a drop-bag and in there I stashed the USB charger and the Garmin USB charging cable.
  • When I entered the check-point, I simply took off my watch (it auto-pauses)
  • I then plugged in the charger cable into the pack
  • Turned the pack on
  • Connected the charging cable to the Garmin as I would normally do at home
In 20 minutes, which was the total time the device was left unattended to charge, the Garmin had changed from 61% to 100%. Sure it could probably have done more in that time too.
  • I then unplugged the charger
  • Stowed the cable and charger back in my drop-bag
  • Left the check-point with 100% charge, good for another 10 hours at least
It worked and I finished a 19.5 hour event with plenty of spare battery too and most importantly all of my Garmin data intact in one Garmin file.

You can even take a look at the Garmin file for the 86 mile Ridgeway Challenge yourself.

Keeping the Garmin alive for a 100 mile+ ultra-marathon

Charging the Garmin on the go means
you won't be able to view the display
What's particularly cool about the Garmin and USB charger combo, is that you could charge the Garmin on the move.

I tried it a few times to prove that it works and it was flawless. Here's what you'd have to do.
  • Turn on the Garmin and track satellites as normal
  • Start the Garmin clock and start running
Then when you feel you need to recharge the battery, do the following:
  • Connect the charging cable to the USB charger
  • Loosen the watch on your wrist so that you can slip the charger clip in behind
  • Turn the USB charger on
  • Attach the charger cable to the watch
  • The watch display will go off at this point and show the battery percentage instead
    • Fortunately, all data points will continue to work, such as
      • Time
      • Satellite tracking
      • HR
      • Etc. will all work fine
  • When your charge is complete or you want to see the display again, unclip the charging cable from the watch
Take care not to pull the cable from either the charger or the Garmin. I secured the cable with a wrist band and stowed the USB pack in my running pack.

The alternative to charging your Garmin is investing in another Garmin

Garmin Fenix 2 GPS watch
The Fenix 2 apparently is built for real endurance adventures and adventure racing. The blurb says 50 hours of battery life, which is impressive, but you will lose GPS accuracy.

Or you could get a Fenix 2 and a USB charger.

The Ridgeway Challenge race report

I saw their head torches splashing light across the buildings by the bridge in Goring, followed a short while later by their chatter. It was high-pitched and quick, like excited kids among new found friends and I was eager to meet them. Although it was past 23:00 and as I waited, stood alone in shorts and t-shirt trying to ignore the double-take glances of cars driving past, I felt happy that I was running the famous Ridgeway with like-minded buffoons on a Friday night.

That was about 4 weeks or so before the start of The Ridgeway Challenge. I'd offered to be a checkpoint for other runners so as they recce'd the route they could pick up water supplies along the way. And whilst I never intended to enter the event myself, I guess it was inevitable. Running with others is very enticing. I'm fascinated by people and what makes them unique and I've found in my life I can rarely say no to an honest invitation. No sooner had "you should do it" been said, my mind was made up. I'd do it.

At Bury Down 4 weeks before the event

What was it that I was doing again?

Once again I'd found myself writing a cheque my brain and body were at odds over. My brain was positive and confident. Knowing I'd suffered worst for longer. My body however was more cautious. The longest run since April of this year was the recce run, and at 22 miles it was just over a quarter of the Ridgeway route. I'd have to take the next month's training seriously.

The Ridgeway Challenge is an ultra-marathon across the entire length of the Ridgeway trail. An 86 mile course with 9,000 feet of elevation. Eek!

Training regime begins today! No, tomorrow.

Buoyed with enthusiasm for a new ultra marathon event, I joined a short distance athletics social club. Yup, I know I know.

One 10k run a week, some track work (that I missed 3 or the 4 times) and a few weekend trail runs. Oh no, tell a lie, I did also get in a few pancake-flat half marathons in too. And I kid you not, I felt better prepared than at almost any other event of my life. Really must do better next time.

Kit inspection

The OMM Kamleika II is a
fantastic water-proof jacket
With the recent heavy rain, I had visions of horrific conditions out on the course and I decided that I'd need to invest in some serious kit. A trail run in wet and muddy conditions in my well-loved Nike Air Pegasus trainers revealed I would likely slip every 6 feet. They had to be replaced. Similarly my mountain bike waterproof was too heavy and too short around the waist. Must be replaced. I probably would have bought new shorts too, if I hadn't have had such a bad prior experience of changing such clothing options shortly before an event. Especially clothing that's neighbours with my special bits. And whilst I spent top dollar on everything, in hindsight I was probably a little naïve in some of my decisions.

What I should have done better

It's all very well me laughing at my stupidity and absurdity in entering these events, but it's not so great when you're led up in bed two days after the event staring down at fat ankles wondering when I'll be able to wear shoes again.

I almost love how I can do these things and cheat serious injury, but if I want to keep doing them for longer then I need to pay more attention and respect to the events and my body (woah, that's Seanie's rare inner serious voice right there).

So, what did I learn?
  • Unless I have trusted kit ready in advance, then I shouldn't  sign up for a demanding event that starts in 4 weeks
  • I have wide feet and should have my gait and sizing checked by a professional
  • I should recce the route or at least ask questions from those who have
  • If friends are doing an event and I want to do it too, ask and sign-up early, don't wait
I just hope I read this (and other posts from my past) when I come to book my next event...

The big day

Much like the start of the SDW50 event earlier on in the year, which was going to be my longest run ever as well, I wasn't nervous. I was just going to start running and then eat and chat along the way and then finally finish at some point. Maybe that's ignorance of the challenge ahead or the best way to start an event? Or both?
Waiting to get started

I loved that Justin was there. Don't tell him, but he's a bit of a hero to me. He focuses on the goal, gets the right training in, and then comes up trumps with a great time and no injuries.

Read Justin's Ridgeway race report.

I also met Bex and Ilsuk, new friends from the night of the recce and WhatsApp compatriots, at the registration area, which was simply a couple of gazebos and a sign. The Trail Running Association (TRA) definitely made the event feel almost home spun and in a great way too. The organisation was great and felt right. There was no corporate crap or over the top briefings and the volunteers looked like regular runners or at least interested in what was going on and it made the start all the better.

At the top of Ivinghoe Beacon, a short walk from the registration area, we were all set-up ready to go. After a quick briefing we set off. On went all the Garmins, and as usual two things happen to me:
  1. I feel alive and my legs fire me up
  2. I forget to wish my close-fellow runners, Justin, Bex and Ilsuk, good luck
I hate that. I just get carried away with the moment like an over-excited puppy and then bam, I'm gone. I should probably add that to the list of things I've learned not to do (again).
View from Ivinghoe Beacon 

The checkpoints

Anyway, the starting sections were great. The sun was mostly out, there was very little wind and the route was green and most enjoyable. The navigation would have been interesting if it weren't for the plethora of signs that dotted every junction and I simply needed to follow the acorn or RIDGEWAY signs.

The first checkpoint came and went quickly. I grabbed some water and a few cheeky jelly babies before saying hello to Cate and Crossy (support crew for Justin) and headed off. Must have been there all of 2 minutes at most.

I don't particularly recall much of the route after this. I remember specifics, like there being a kids park, a yellow box, Chequer's, some cows, a bull, plenty of gates and a few walkers. Oh and then I came across a 10:00 starter. I was a little perplexed at first forgetting there were two start times, but wished the lady good luck regardless and only realising who she would have been after I passed her. I met a few more 10:00 starters and they all seemed in good spirits, if going a little more steady-paced than other runners.

Happy and content out on the run
Checkpoint 2 came up quickly and that's where I met the sandwich lady who insisted I take some (4!) for the road. I said thanks for their help, stole a cheeky handful of mini-pork-sausages and was on my way. Again, I'm not great for remembering lots of the journey or the route, but this is where I'd meet Tony and we'd run together or pass each other at CPs for the next 30 or so miles.

I'd actually been following Tony for a while already. He looked like he knew where he was going and with the gentle steer of experience he navigated through some tricky turns and right handers. Unbeknownst to me, he hadn't the foggiest idea where he was going and was doing as I was, by following the person in front… until they went too far ahead. Over the course of the 30 miles, we had to stop a few times to check location against nearby signs and once we, er, oh goodness the shame, we took a short-cut. We'd been merrily chatting along when we were running down a road. And we just kept chatting and clearly didn't see a sign. After feeling the 'ping' of something's not right, I consulted my map (so glad I brought it) and found ourselves on a road parallel to the course. We carried on and probably saved a good mile or two, but importantly we got ourselves back on track.

Tony pushed ahead once more when I answered the call of nature and then nature decided to answer it's own call with a light shower. I ummed and arred about whether to put my jacket on and finally gave in. Stopping whilst running is a horrible time. Every second you stop to faff is time wasted, but better to stop than get soaked I agreed with my internal decision making monologue. The rain didn't last too long and it was to be the only shower of the day. We really were very very lucky with the weather.

Checkpoint 3 cruised around quickly enough. Now here's another thing I learned. I didn't eat enough. I still had 3 sandwiches from checkpoint 2 and had only had an energy bar, a few jelly babies and those sausages. I didn't feel hungry, but I missed out somewhere or at some point in the event because I hadn't eaten. Naughty Seanie!

Doris and Boris; Checkpoint 4 capers. Bless them, they were really sweet, but boy was it comical watching them. A combination of them not having checked in a number, doing everything twice but with a delay of 5 seconds between them and then a series of people joining and leaving at the same time sent the checkpoint into near chaos. It wouldn't have been amiss in a Two Ronnie's sketch show!

I did get to see Bex at this point, which was most welcome. She looked healthy, bubbly and all smiles. It was for those reason that later on when I'd exhausted most other normal thoughts that you have when you have so much time to think, that I thought she'd make a great gladiator. Whatever happened to that show?

Justin at Goring happy to see food
(and Cate?)
As I left CP4 (leaving my favourite cap and 3 of the 4 sandwiches), I was sure they would catch-up (Bex was running with two male escorts. Wait, what?), but I hadn't expected Grim's Ditch. Wow, what a fun little roller coaster of a trail it was. Twisty, technical and in the woods. Must have been 5 miles worth and I loved every second, which also pushed me faster than I expected and I even managed to catch-up with Tony again.

We'd been chatting about other running events and he told me about Lakeland 50 in July with the heat and superman effort needed to finish it. The Bedouin checkpoint with sofas and music sounded amazing and as did his sprint to the finish to get in in under 12 hours. It's chats like this that make the minutes and miles slip by.

Checkpoint 5 was at Goring and where I would be re-united with my drop-bag where I could change socks and top and get into some tights (steady). Some good food (and plenty of coke) filled me with energy and whilst I only wanted to spend 20 minutes there, I ended up spending 30 because I had lost most of my dexterity and hand to eye coordination. It was laughable trying to get the tights on!

Checkpoint 6 I knew very well having offered the recce team a checkpoint there a month prior. Having stopped for what seemed like a few minutes, but was potentially 10, I set off with a bottle loaded with water and another with Coca Cola.

I could relate to her struggle
PPFFFFTTTT!!!! Coke bubbles were sprayed all up my arm and over my head. I laughed out loud and quickly pulled open the cap to let out some of the built up gas out and then put it back on. Laughing still, I took another few steps PPFFFFTTTT!!!! "Oh for goodness sake" I remember shouting. Again I pulled open the cap, but this time drank about a third to reduce the gas build up and replaced the cap. Yup, another step and PPFFFFTTTT!!!! And this time before I even got to the cap it was PPFFFFTTTT!!!!ing again. I drank at least half of what was left and then gently held the bottle as shock-absorbingly as I could for fear of spray going everywhere again.

But as soon as I started to run again, the most intense shivers and coldness hit me. My teeth chattered and I threw down my pack and ripped out my waterproof as fast as I could. I was freezing! My arms were shaking and even fully zipping up my jacket and throwing up my hood I had to start running as fast as I could (a gentle jog at best) to warm up again. It was shocking how quickly the heat went out of me. Either it was a reaction to the cold Coke, the high winds on the open car park or that I was stopped at the checkpoint standing still for 10 minutes. But it made me pay immediate respect to what I was wearing and how quickly it could happen again.

Shortly after checkpoint 6 was where I had to let Tony go ahead. My ankles and shins were deeply painful at this point and his running pace was still really strong. I appreciated the company, as did he, but I would never want to intentionally hold someone back. He'd come in 13th at 18:27 in the end.

For the next x minutes or hours, I honestly don't remember how long exactly I ran / walked on my own. I did enjoy stopping and turning my heard torch off to look up at the stars. I saw a few shooting stars and gazed In awe for a few moments before carrying on. I also used that time to look back, as I was sure Bex would be catching up at any point. Whilst I'd seen Justin and Bex at Goring to know they were OK, I hadn't seen Ilsuk and I was hoping he was OK.

The Ridgeway route
A few people went by, one guy even went by twice, having got a little lost. But otherwise it was just me. I had to get the map out once for one slightly iffy double-junction. I was sure I was right, but why not take the 2 minutes to check before heading off for miles in the wrong direction? That was the difference between the day section and the night. Not that the darkness made it harder, but that at night the route was along longer and straighter paths, which meant less navigation posts. Which equally meant one mistake could potentially not be found out for a very long while.

Whilst looking back at one point, I saw a light in the distance and before too long it was upon me and as I turned to offer my best to the runner, I heard "Seanie". Lo and behold it was Justin. I was thrilled he was there and he instantly gave me a boost. Asking if I could tag along, he kept up a great pace and I chugged on behind.

Clearly he was in much much better shape than I was and he asked me the best question of the night, "have you been eating enough and regularly?". Naturally, I said yes. A silly knee-jerk reaction, but then pondering it for a while I realised I hadn't been. Sure I'd been picking at a few bits at the checkpoints, and I did have a decent jacket potato at Goring, but nothing significant in comparison to the 9,400 odd calories my Garmin said I'd burned throughout the event.

Elevation profile of The Ridgeway Challenge
Having someone to chase down and keep the pace was great, but my ankles and shins were still causing me untold trouble. I was having to dab my right foot on the ground on all but the lightest downhills (and there seemed to be no end of them) and when we stopped to walk, starting to run again was a case of hobbling and wobbling up to speed before getting the right gait sorted so that I wouldn't cripple my foot completely. I looked a shambles.

Checkpoint 7 went by quickly and I think I was 'not-right' at that point. Probably a bit spaced-out. I'd grabbed some proper food following Justin's questioning and was soon much better.

Halfway to the next check-point I had an epiphany about taking some pain killers and ibuprofen. Took a handful and voila, my aches and pains were gone. It was amazing whilst it lasted (30 minutes or so) and I could even keep up with Justin-the-Juggernaut too.

Checkpoint 8 had a fireplace. Why do you tempt me oh checkpoint? It immediately warmed me to my very centre and I took the opportunity to linger for a few moments whilst I scoffed a banana. This checkpoint, and in fact like all of them, had some lovely people who we're volunteering their time to support us in doing something we wanted to do. Awesome people. Awesome salted potatoes too.

Checkpoint 9 felt like forever away, and then this is the one thing I guess I really didn't like about The Ridgeway Challenge. A lot of the course, a lot more than I would have ever thought, was on road. Not road-road, but concrete or solid pathway. I'd always imagined most of the Ridgeway, like its start, to be off-road trail. But again, if I'd ask the right questions in advance I would have known this.

Pooch and I reunited at the finish
Heading into 9, I saw that I had a missed call from Ruth, my wife, and so called her back to see if all was OK. I should have known that this wasn't her usual sleepy-talk, so she must have already been up. But I wasn't switched on enough to notice. She said she was at home, but lo and behold getting to 9 and there she was with Chewie, my pooch, in tow. The dog went nuts and I got a thorough welcome from her and a nod from the wife. Marriage, innit.

Anyway, 9 had hot dogs. At this point I could have been dreaming, but hot dogs just seemed so darn right. I scoffed two and sat back happy with a warm tea and 2 sugars. However, because it was day light, and  Justin and I were surrounded by our loved ones, it almost felt like it was done already, but no, there was still 6 miles left to go.

The 6 miles actually went by relatively quickly (did I black out?). The sense of the finish was with me, and whilst I honestly couldn't muster a run at times, I was still satisfied. I don't think Justin realised how much I dug deep to finish the last mile or so with a run. I really gave it my all. And then oddly, the old competition hound kicked in, and I could have sprinted the last 100 metres to drop him and take the glory. But we ran in together in a joint 18th in 19 hours and 38 minutes.

Meet Junior
Just writing this yarn was tiring enough and if you've gotten this far, then you've probably just done a reading-ultra! But I must say a big thanks to everyone from the day. It was one hell of a challenge, well organised, with great people in and about the event and with lots of memorable moments that will stay with me 'til the painkillers kick in.

Information about the event
Full results for The Ridgeway Challenge 2014
More pics from the event (nothing amazing, sorry)
Read Justin Bateman's Ridgeway race report
Garmin data for the nerds

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Removing a SRAM BB30 MTB crank from a Cannondale

Well, this is going to be straight forward I assumed to myself. But no, an hour of effort and two large steel pipes for leverage later; I accepted a draw with my BB30 cranks.

How to remove the drive side crank

Firstly, don't try and remove the non-drive side crank. That doesn't come off and, yes whilst you can undo the 10mm hex bolt, you shouldn't need to.
Don't remove the non-drive
side crank bolt

  1. Go get yourself a long 10mm hex wrench (I use a Park Tools HT-10 and a Park Tools PH-10)
  2. Stick the 10mm hex wrench in the drive side crank and turn it in the opposite direction of the arrow on the bolt (anti-clockwise / to the left)
    • Use the crank as something to push or pull against
  3. Now this is where the bolt should come loose and when the self-extracting bolt is fully unscrewed the crank should come off
    • However, the fitting on my Cannondale Trigger was so tight, I ended up having to use two large steel tubes to push the cranks and 10mm hex wrench together (see pic below)
    • I heard two MASSIVE pings when I used the steel tubes and I presume that was just the threadlock giving way.
    • I did manage to scratch my cranks, but that's a small price to pay to know that they will now come off with a decent sized 10mm hex key on the trail side if needed
Hey presto, the crank should be off. Give it a good clean up and put some decent grease on the self-extracting bolt threads.

Those two white poles were needed to remove
the drive side crank!

Now to remove the non-drive side crank

In the first lines of this post I said that I accepted a draw because, for the life of me and all my tools, I couldn't get the non-drive side crank to come out.

The BB30 bottom bracket system is really tight. The bearings and the frame have to be perfect to get the right alignment between everything so that it all works smoothly. In my case, either I couldn't get the right alignment or something isn't rightly aligned in the first place.

What should happen, is with the drive side crank removed and the bearing preload adjuster unwound, a soft tap from a mallet will un-seat the non-drive side crank and allow it to be taken out.

What actually happened is that the crank got stuck half way and no amount of tapping with the mallet, silicon spray (to lubricate) or wiggling (the crank spindle, not me) could get the crank to come out.

This long handled Park Tools HT-10 wasn't enough
to remove the cranks
I settled with cleaning the crank spindle and bearings and put everything back together again.

My guess is that one of the bearings has deformed slightly and it's causing the spindle to catch.

Next time when I do need to remove the cranks, I'll spend some more time playing to get it to come out, otherwise I'll smash it out and simply replace the BB30 bearings with newer ones.

Putting it all back together again

Putting it back together, I doused everything in grease (I use Exus E-G01 grease) and then wiped any excess off. The trick is to ensure that everything inside the cranks (bearings, spindle, threads etc.) are completely covered with a 1-2mm covering of the stuff. Better to be safe than sorry. Also helps reduce rusting too. Any more and you may be impacting the ability for the cranks to turn! The second trick is to make sure that from the outside you can't see any grease. Grease on the outside of the cranks or by the bearings will just become a magnet for crap. Wipe it up with a bit of kitchen cloth.

Anyway, to put the cranks back on, make sure the bearing preload adjuster is wound out (and greased) and then slide the non-drive crank in first. You may need to tap it gently with a mallet to get it all the way through and flush with the bearing. Then add the spindle spacer to the drive side, put the chain inside between the frame and the crank and then finally add the drive side crank to the spindle.

Tighten the drive side crank self extracting bolt (that's had its threads greased) with a 10mm hex key.

Set the bearing preload as needed and wipe up and final grease. How many times did I say the word 'Grease'!

And it's done.

Comparison to Shimano and Hollowtech

Either it's SRAM or it's the Cannondale BB30 spec, but this was a job that should have taken 15 minutes to disassemble, clean and re-assemble my cranks. It certainly takes that long for my Shimano cranks and my other Hollowtech bottom bracket and crank combos.

Hopefully with the cranks now un-done, it will be easier next time, but the fact I was unable to easily remove the non-drive side crank was a disappointment and showed that something was wrong.

If in the future I need to replace my cranks on my Cannondale Trigger, I may just choose to use Shimano and get a BB30 to Hollowtech reducer.

8mm SRAM cranks

Lastly, if you find that your SRAM cranks have an 8mm hex key, then this guide isn't for you. For those SRAM cranks you need to insert your 8mm key in the non-drive side and undo the self-extracting bolt anti-clockwise.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Picnic marathon across the North Downs

Happy to have finished
"4 weeks to go. That will give me enough time to get some training in" I promised myself and others. "Plenty of time to get lots of hill reps in, some longer runs and get my legs ready for the hardest marathon in Britain". However, after checking my calendar, I realised the race was in fact just over a week away! But quite frankly, knowing what I'm like, I wasn't all that surprised.

The Picnic - the hardest marathon in Britain

sparkly-filtered start
There's an allure to tough races. Knowing that you went harder, higher, longer or further and on less is pretty darn cool. And that's what this marathon is about, everything about it is harder than your average. 6,000+ feet in elevation, hot June temperatures and no flat ground in sight. And those steps!

Trionium put on a lot of tough races, but this one is the toughest they offer and they only offer it once every two years. It's quite possibly the toughest event I've ever run and most certainly the toughest marathon. In comparison a 50 mile event I ran in April was significantly easier than this event.

For the uninitiated, the pointy bits
are bad (and there's 20 of them!)
The course elevation outline from my Garmin tells you enough about what the event is really like.

The calm before the steps

I really love the first hill on the course. It sets you off on a steady upwards plod, where you don't need to work too hard, but you can still feel some good effort being put through your legs. At this point and at no other point on the course will you feel this fresh. I savoured it, but perhaps a little too much as I forgot to wish my running cohort, Justin Bateman, good luck.

The view from the start
'The steps' the sub-title refers to is the first and last challenge of the event. 275 steps down and 275 steps up, with 7 or 8 stepping stones across a tormentingly cool-looking river; and you'll repeat this 4 times. These aren't your regular stair-steps either. These steps were made for odd-sized giants. The height between them varies, the depth even more so and often at funny angles from your direction of travel. And the condition, well that ranges from solid and unforgiving to outright decaying. It's no wonder I tripped once and flew through the air. Thankfully a person in front of me was, albeit unknowingly, polite enough to catch my fall. Ta muchos!

The route takes in some beautiful views of the Downs and I can't help but feel that I want to run the event with a camera and allow myself time to absorb and enjoy them. But more often than not, it's head down or up and focusing on the coming trail.

But that's where the marathon is slightly more forgiving than the half-marathon event. When the 'halfies' came thundering down the steps whilst I was going up them, they looked like a collection of roaming wilder-beast vying for space and risking life and limb to dash around each other. I did it last year and it was a lot of fun, but you certainly lost the time and the inclination to take stock of where you were and how beautiful it all was.

Thanks to my wife for the support and the photos
I'm not saying that you have time for tea and cakes on the marathon and to daze off for an afternoon kip, but the marathon gives you more time and you travel at a more civilized pace.

So what's the course like?

First of all, it's all trail.There are grassy bits which are nice to run on, but otherwise it's either muddy, rooty, rocky or a combo. And all of it, bar some very small sections, was either up or down a hill.

There are two sets of steps and both of them are equally steep. There's a long downhill, much like the starting hill, which you go up and down 4 times. There's a wonderfully long-section on a downhill leg that's a blast and then equally there's a horribly long section on the way back which is a drag. Everything is done 4 times so you get quite familiar with it all.

There are plenty of drink and snack stations along the way, but they don't provide any salts (the crisps sadly didn't help much) which was the only thing missing. Otherwise, the enthusiasm and chat from the volunteers was as always admirable and excellent. It was great to thank them for the day on the last leg of the course. A massive thanks too to Rob the organiser for such an awesome event. I saw him after the event running around closing the event down and could only think that he must be running on pure passion for running and stale jaffa cakes. Top guy.

Unexpectedly there were loads of supporters out on the course. Either friend or family or just caught unaware as they took their dog for a walk. Many of them offered smiles and words of encouragement. "Nutters" was called more once too. It was great to see them and it was genuinely nice to hear chants and claps as you ran by. Thank you!
Not taken on the day, but this is the view from near the view-point


I loved that every-so-often I ran past Justin. We'd tried the ubiquitous high-five in previous events and it was all very amateurish. We either missed completely or only a sole finger would connect. It looked like a couple wanting to simply make physical contact with their loved one rather than two running mates wanting to make physical contact with their loved one. Er, I mean running loved one. But this time, we nailed it. On reflection, I can only really put this down to the much slower paces we were both going at. But still, I counted 6 successful high-fives!

But after reading Justin's blog of the day, perhaps I really shouldn't have been so keen to make hand contact.

Justin finishing The Picnic
Go on, have a read, I know I've piqued your interest.

If you didn't read his post, then suffice to say there was poop everywhere. I hadn't seen him in a while and was beginning to grow concerned. Usually it was 20 minutes before I'd see him, but this time it was a lot longer. When I met him heading down the long downhill to the turn he wasn't feeling so well and was expecting a much later finish then expected, so when I finished I tweeted his non-running love, Cate. Ruth (my wife) and I waited for his return to ensure he was safe. I was really proud of him that he finished and glad he pushed through too (I'm sure there's a pun in there somewhere).

Will I run The Picnic again?

Oh yes. Next year it will be the half (will try and get a sub-2 hour) and then in two years time I'll be back for the full marathon. Can't wait.

Coming back up the starting hill
at the half way point

5 things I learned from this event

  • Salts on a hot day are invaluable (and that I must make sure I bring some!)
  • You can run a marathon on little training
  • Walking is easier when you're low on energy (usually walking is a killer for me)
  • I don't need a water-bottle when there's water every few miles
  • I need 5-7 energy gels for a tough marathon to stay in the zone, but can survive on 3 and a few jaffa cakes
  • Bonus learning: cutting your toe-nails before the run can prevent them falling off!

What's next?

Whenever I do an event I always get the bug as soon as I get home. What can I do next to feel this wrecked again?

And I think if I actually train and prepare properly, then I the sky's the limit. I'd love to run the Centurion Running Winter 100 and I've already added my name to the wait-list. Otherwise, I'll be back at the Trionium Greensand marathon for sure.

Great out and back route done twice for the full marathon

Garmin data for the nerds.