Chilling out – literally

With no competitions this weekend, a house full of visitors, and a cold which started on Wednesday night I admitted defeat and chilled out for a few days this week. The upshot, however, was I ended up having three fantastic recreational mountain bike rides on Cannock Chase with various combinations of friends, bimbly walks with kids and, finally, a trip to Wolf Mountain.

Cannock Chase was gorgeous on Saturday with hardly anybody about (off Christmas shopping no doubt), with lots of frosty vistas and long reaching views under clear blue skies. I lead John and Nicky on separate rides (they have a 4 month old) & tried to take them to little used parts of the Chase where the local trail fairies have been busy. We had a great time crunching along the icy tracks.

Sunday brought more of the same. Following an early morning walk with the kids around Oldacre with chilly misty views out towards the Wrekin, Nicky & I had another ride, but this time with Fraser in tow on his trusty Cotic Soul. There were lots more people about so we avoided the busy areas by nipping over to Abrahams Valley and did some old singletracks I’ve not been on for ages.

Sunday late afternoon was spent at Wolf Mountain Indoor Climbing wall in Wolverhampton. This superb facility encourages all ages and the kids had a great time scaling the walls and bouldering on the side of a continuous overhanging slide nick named ‘Spider Pig’. My old ~1988 climbing boots brought a few smirks from the better climbers but they still seem to work OK!

I think the few days relative rest has done me good and I should be back on the drive steaming away in cold evening air on my turbo trainer on Monday night.

Brocton & Milford Regional Event

I’ve been looking forward to this event for weeks. I don’t do as much foot orienteering as I would like, mainly because we can’t be bothered with running on poor quality West Midlands country parks etc when we live right next to some of the best terrain in the region and are so busy doing other things. We tend to prefer to compete less often but don’t then mind travelling further to get the quality.

Living on the map should obviously give me quite an advantage, and calling in to the house for a quick hot ribena and buttered crumpet on the way to the start was a treat you don’t normally get at an event.

I basically had a cracking run. I was unsure whether I was now ready to tackle a M35Long course but I’m glad I did, winning by 8 mins, although still making a minute or so of mistakes. The course was very well planned, the weather lovely and a great atmosphere at the finish. Results here.

So it now looks as though I am now officially back to full length orienteering courses after 6 years in the injury wilderness. To say im chuffed is a bit of an understatement, and am looking forward to it hurting getting out of bed on Monday morning as its a feeling I’ve not had for a long time. I really feel like I can draw a line under my whole sesamoiditis injury episode and move on.

Mark Stodgell

Dads at dawn

I had another fairly easy week this week. Monday nights ride was fairly short, essentially only two of us were out and we didn’t fancy the dark lanes round Coven on our own with poor lights, good ride though, in clear cold conditions, pushing hard from Potal Pool roundabout tucked in behind Russell Falder was exhilarating. He is a very good Junior Road Rider about to start his first Senior Season.
After a steady ride on Friday my highlight of the week was a Mountain Bike ride on Saturday morning with some Dads from Holly’s School, Berkswich. Steve Cope invited me indicating it was an early start – 7.15 from punchbowl car park. I ummed and aarghed and went to bed on Friday night deciding it was just too early and that I needed a lie in. At 6.57 I woke up and thought I could just about make it. Well I was 2 mins late, but they were all still extracting bikes from cars and getting ready, though 4.5mins from home to punchbowl is a personal best. We climbed the German Cutting as the sun came up and were treated to a spectacular sunrise over the Sherbrook Valley. It was a fairly leisurely ride but I had a good natter to the other dads. 3 of them only had passes that let them out till 9am so off they went leaving Steve, Simon and Myself (who all had passes till 11) to do a bit more. Steve did incredibly well on an early 90s Diamond Back, with canty brakes and rigid forks, definitely a candidate for Retrobike.co.uk. I showed Simon lots of secret singletracks in and around Abrahams Valley and Sherbrook which left a smile on his face as he had only done Follow the Dog in the past. He has only come back to MTBing recently and his bike was a great combination of new and retro bits, so lots of banter was had about components from the past that must have left Steve wondering what we were on about.

Sunshine and wildlife

With legs still very tired from last Sundays efforts at the Compass Sport cup I have had an easy week. Work has been tough with a huge presentation on Wed, then working till 3am upgrading 60 odd workstations. Thursday nights club run from the Garsides house had a great social feel to it, with Ray getting the Spam award for running the wrong course last weekend.
The weather today was amazing, bright sunshine, with only a little of the promised wind. I decided to just go out and enjoy riding round the Chase on my roadbike as I am out on the mountain bike with Alan tomorrow.
Within 15 mins id seen 5 deer, a fox and countless squirrels. The fox ran straight out in front of the bike near Chase Road Corner, probably the closest I’ve been to one. The views into the valleys were great with the Autumn leaves and bright blue skies above. Views out towards The Peaks and The Wrekin also spectacular, with no haze at all.

I stopped for lunch at Birches Valley Cafe, which is now very good, and then bimbled home, legs still struggling on the hills. Cath was back so we grabbed the camera and headed out into the conservation area where Chasers are holding the British Orienteering Champs in 2010 to get some publicity shots.

Having designed the logo I have got to put together a basic flier in the next month so it was fortunate to get some good weather.