Stafford Borough Sports Awards 2008

I have just had a letter inviting me to attend the awards evening on the 27th February being nominated for ‘Most improved sports performer for 2008’ by my orienteering club, Walton Chasers. The top 3 nominees in each category get to go to the evening so Ill see what happens on the night. Two other Chasers are also in the top 3 nominees for their categories. Cath won the sports coach category about 4 years ago and it was a good evening so I am looking forward to it.
Ive now got to send them a photo of me in action, should I be smiling or grimacing ?

New Year in Selkirk #2

A visit to Glentresss and Innerleithen was inevitable given our close proximity for the week. Parking at Buzzards Nest and getting Holly and Cath on their way round the green route we set off round the red.

Spooky wood lived up to its reputation of being whoopy and swoopy and seemed to go on and on. Its the first time my forearms have hurt in a long time. I struggled a bit in the half light of the Pie Run but the single track just kept on coming until we joined up with some of the black options further down and headed for bacon butties and cake at The Hub. The atmosphere at this cafe which is very basic was fantastic and I hope that in any redevelopment it isnt lost as it was somewhat over at Coed Y Brenin in West Wales.

With a  bit of day light still left Paul and I decided a quick trip to Innerleithen was in order so we both blasted back up to Buzzards nest to get the van (I then got a cheeky run down the blue which was also very good ridden flat out).

Innerleithen was empty and is very much forgotten by the cross country riders being characterised by its famous downhill routes. I have to say though that the bottom half of the red xc route, cadon bank, (which is on the Selkirk Merida Marathon route apparently) is the best piece of man made single track I have ever ridden. The huge bomb hole like drops and ridges where the bike goes light, snaking through the trees in the dusk was something I will remember for a long time.

New Years day brought a walk up Arthurs Seat in Edinburgh with Holly and Cath. The mist lifted just as we got to the top, giving spectacular views over the city. Another walk on Friday around the Selkirk hills finished off a fantastic week away in the Borders.


New Year in Selkirk #1

Paul McGreal, an orienteering pal from way back (we did our first Saunders Mountain Marathon together in 1988 when we were both 16) has lived in Selkirk for a while and this New Year gave us the perfect opportunity to meet up, and perhaps sample some of the spectacular mountain biking in the area.

Paul is an committed adventure racer/triathlete and was keen to show me his back yard, particularly the 7 Staines areas near him.

After a spectacular journey up through the Borders a bit of a rude introduction was the suggestion we partake in the regular Tuesday night ride from Selkirk Town Square.
I looked a right twit in my zip tied head torch. The other riders thought I had some serious candle power ready to be unleashed, but it became apparent very quickly that I now need to sort out some new lighting if I am going to ride regularly off-road with groups.

We climbed up out of Selkirk towards Three Brethren, then turned up over Peat Law – 426m. I’m sure the view from the top would be spectacular but it was a very dark cold night. After a quick natter on the top, 2 of the locals launched themselves down the mountain, flying across smooth fields and then winding down through the forest.

The most impressive light was a Light and Motion Arc, an HID technology unit. I also decided that the ideal solution involves a flood on the handlebars and a spot on the head, as my head-torch was just bouncing up and down too much at speed.

After crossing the A787 we dived down through some very technical woods. Dave, one of the Selkrik regulars, broke his ‘duck’ After a year of not falling off he crashed spectacularly on a steep decent, T boning a tree near the river and continued a good 10 metres down the steep escarpment head first. Luckily all that was damaged was his pride but it could have been very nasty. We finished with the steep climb back up to Paul’s house hidden away in the middle of Selkirk, a great ride.

Photos in Compass Sport Magazine !

It was very good to see a detailed report of the European MTBO Championships in Compass Sport Magazine this month. Emily Benham did a great job of writing it up and the editor has used many of the photos taken by myself and others.
Compass Sport is the premier UK Map sport magazine covering Orienteering, Mountain Marathons, MTBO, Trailquests and Adventure Racing. The low res versions below open up a full resolution 2.2Mb PDFs of the article, reproduced by kind permission of the editor.


Christmas Runs & Rides

The great thing about the Xmas break is all the day light available and time to play!
Ten am sharp in the school Christmas holidays brings the Walton Chasers runs, including on Christmas morning. Even though it started 200 metres from our house on Christmas day, we still managed to miss the alloted time and I had to really hammer it to chase down the pack and get them to wait for Cath and her dad. Its was a good sized group, ranging in age from 18 to 65 and ability from national level fell runner to occasional orienteer. We spent a great hour running through Brocton Coppice and Sherbrook Valley in the cold morning sunshine, back in time to gorge ourselves on Turkey, trimmings and playing with our presents.
I went out on the mountain bike on Boxing Day and managed to avoid the crowds mostly. The Chase was very busy, but, as normal, as soon as you got away from the car parks and major tracks it was deserted.
I finally got Holly out with her tag on Saturday morning, although it was bitterly cold. After dropping her home I went out for another hours blast with instructions to pick up a loaf of bread on the way home. I came up with the great idea of elastic banding it to my map board to carry it home although I’m sure I looked completely daft.


With Sunday came a houseful of old friends from uni. In the 90’s we used to be part of a group of about 60 friends that met up for New Years partys in various Outdoor centres every year for a week or so of outdoors combined with social. Four of them joined us for a big walk on the Chase (about 12 miles) combined with various tea shop stops. There was far too much whiskey and Risk playing that night (after the obligatory curry), though not before a quick hours blast in the early evening darkness on the mountain bikes. I had my Orienteering Mila Headtorch ziptied to my helmet, battery and all, and after about 30 mins my neck was so sore from the weight I had to swap it for a Silva LX Fraser had with him for the remainder of the ride.

I was a good test of the old halogen technology of the Mila against the LED of the Silva, as both used identical batteries. The Mila had a much better spread, but the light was very yellow compared to the tight white beam of the Silva. I don’t think there was a lot in it, and I suppose a combination of both would be ideal. I know you can spend as much as £700 on a bike lighting system and with the massive advances in LED technology over the last couple of years new lights are always coming to market. I would like to try the new Silva Alpha when it comes out in January which promises to be the panacea but for the time being I think I carry on using the Mila but with the battery in its bag on my back !


Event Report – Military Challenge 3hr MTBO

The Military Challenge is an event born out of the Around Aldershot races of the last few years. It takes place on normally out of bounds Army training areas in the South East closed for the Christmas Break. It consists of Ultra Long Mountain Bike Orienteering or long foot Orienteering races, this year based at Longmoor Camp, near Petersfield.
Organised by BAOC (British Army Orienteering Club)the MTBOs of previous years have taken place in freezing conditions so the mild weather of the weekend before Christmas this year was a pleasant surprise, with temperatures around 12 degrees.
The 2008 event was a 3 hour score with a map exchange once the first map (1:15000 Orienteering map) had been cleared, so well worth the long journey down south. The quality of the field was also very good with at least 6 recent members of the British Team present.
I really shouldn’t have ridden as I was still not fit post Man Flu, but MTBO opportunities are so thin on the ground I decided to ride anyway but to take it a little easier than normal.
The controls were well spread out across the map, with plenty of route choice. I decided to head north into the less complex terrain first, and although I should have collected a couple of controls in a more efficient order was riding well with no mistakes. I had no repeat incident this year of trapping my EMIT brick between brake lever and handlebar, which came as bit a shock on a steep decent last Christmas !

The riding was great, with lots of steep descents and rolling tracks formed by years of tank and vehicle training, although some of the tracks were so sandy and muddy it was like trying to ride through soup.

I was feeling particularly rough about 2 hours in, but decided at the map exchange that as there were only a few controls left I would complete the 3 hours. I thought that rather than risk being late and losing points I would leave out one control, however I ended up finishing 10 mins early, so easily could have bagged it which would have brought me up one place.

Overall given the state of my lungs I was very happy with 6th, although Killian (winning by clearing up in 2.5 hours) is so far ahead of the rest of us at the moment it is going to take some serious training commitment to wind him in.
Full Results here….

Mark Stodgell ( stodge )

Man Flu & Rifle Ranges

What a week. I really shouldn’t of done the Dark & White Trailquest last week. I felt horrendous with a temperature all day Monday and ended up off work on the Tuesday. Man Flu, a terrible affliction.

So most of the week was spent trying to decide whether to race on Saturday down in Hampshire and servicing my bike just in case. The chainset although only going on in late September for the European’s has taken a complete hammering in the mud of the Cyclo Xs and Trailquests so a new chain and granny were required.

The Military Challenge is always on just before Xmas and is one of the very few MTBOs in the winter so I really wanted to go (see event report for more details). I ended up not deciding till late on Friday night and ended up staying at friends in Romsey that evening, as trying to drive for 6 plus hours and do a 3 hour race in one day would be a bit daft even without the Manflu. Bizzarely however Alan H ended up staying at my place in Stafford that night to break his journey from Shap and got to the event before me on Saturday morning……………
Even on Saturday morning I nearly didn’t race, and thought about retiring after 2 hours or riding. Its difficult when there are so few races in the UK, the temptation to do it is overwhelming even when you probably shouldn’t.

Writing this on Monday I do now feel that after 3 weeks I should now be able to get back to training again, but someone wants a kitchen floor finished by Wednesday, so Ill take it easy for the first few days back 😉

Mark Stodgell ( Stodge )

A much, much better day at the office

Event report – Dark and White Winter League rd 3 – Grindleford

My training diary on Saturday showed no training for 10 days due to a cold I picked up off of Holly. With the cold still there I wasn’t sure that I ought to race today really. Manic bike maintenance on Saturday night after driving home from Somerset didn’t help either but I put the bike in the car anyway and decided to make a decision on Sunday morning.

Trips up through The Peaks are always a pleasure early on Sunday mornings with no traffic on the road and this morning was no exception. Arriving at the event centre in Grindleford it was good to see Emily Benham, Britain’s current MTBO superstar who bagged a silver out in Lithuania, though being a poor student she was forced to cycle to and from Sheffield to take part. After my last effort at a Dark and White Event I spent a good 1.5 mins having a look possible routes and realised that again it was not going to be possible to get them all.

I decided to leave the lower value controls around Eyam to the end and headed out up on to Baslow Edge, with stunning views out to the west.  The day was characterised by vicious climbs and very fast descents, but as I am still without a replacement for my GPS I didn’t get a total height gain or max speed.
I decided to put a physcological demon to bed my diving down into Cressbrook and attacking the long climb out after bagging a control. A bad experience in the past given me the knowledge that the climbs are much bigger than those indicated on the map and I was a little hesitant at going back down there.

Looking at my watch I was ahead of schedule so a quick bit of re-planning brought in another huge climb at the end up through Eyam to Sir William Hill, again with stunning views back across the valley. However the climb told and I arrived at the control with no time left so I let rip on the final 250m decent into Grindleford.

A mistake on a road junction added to my lateness  by a minute or so but I was only 51/2 mins late in the end.

Now full results are published and I was 3rd (several Vets upgraded themselves into Open) which I am very happy with.

Mark Stodgell ( Stodge )