Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Wiltshire Sports Personality of the Year

A few weeks ago I found out I had been shortlisted for the Wiltshire Sports Personality of the Year award, after having been nominated by my Orienteering Club. The winners ceremony was last night, but I couldn't attend due to being in Austria. I didn't think this would be such a big deal given that there was no way I would win - surely there are better athletes in the county than me who have acheived more this year. So I politely declined stating that I was on a training camp.

Little did I think I would win! :-)

After a video session of me receiving the award a couple of weeks ago, the winner was announced last night, and my video played! My parents had been invitied and decided to attend to represent me. I am really disappointed I couldn't make it, by all accounts it sounded like a great evening.

I would post the video, but I don't have a copy yet, so you will have to wait for me to return before you can have a laugh!!

World Cup Italy

The World Cup in Italy is held this weekend near Venice in a small town called Teolo. Originally planned as a middle and long distance - due to bad weather several weeks ago which felled many trees on the long distance terrain - the organisers changed plans to a sprint and middle distance. Perfect for me!

The top two in the World Cup standings - Christine Schaffner SUI and Michaela Gigon AUT - will be battling all weekend for the title of World Cup winner 2010. Both clearly ahead of the rest of the field, Schaffner leads by 3 points to Gigon.

In the men, Erik Skovgard Knudsen DEN has a 30 point lead to Beat Schaffner SUI, who leads another 38/39 points to Anton Foliforov RUS and Samuli Saarela FIN..

Competition will be close fought - with hopefully some technical terrain and technical navigation testing all the athletes to their limits under pressure.

Entries are now online

Monday, 13 September 2010


Since Thursday 2nd Sept I have been in Austria. First was the WRE in Faak am See near Villach, before travelling to Wiener Neusadt to stay with one of the Austrians. Aside from the car breaking down in Graz which meant and unscheduled stop in Graz overnight - actually good fun since I got to see the city and the Schlossberg.

My time in Wiener Neustadt has also been fun. Friday saw us heading into Vienna, Kevin for a sport conference, whilst I met up with Michi, Per and later Andi and his friend at the FilmFestival at the Rathausplatz. I was at the filmfestival in August after the TransCarpatia and really enjoyed the atmosphere, so I was happy to go back to try some more food from around the world - even if I did have Australian Hot Billabong Prawns and wildreis! Several drinks later and it was 11pm - time for home.

Sunday was another day trip to Wien, this time to the zoo at Schlossbrunn, which was really really great fun. It's been years since I last went to a zoo in England, so to see all the animals was cool! The weather was also perfect for a day out, and more dinner at the Rathausplatz before ice cream at Zanoni's :-)

Training is going ok. I am trying to avoid getting too tired and exhausted by biking every other day for 90minutes maximum, today finding a really great downhill track in the forest!

Tomorrow I travel to Leoben to stay with another friend, before finding my way back to Villach on Thursday evening prior to Italy!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

World Ranking Event

The weekend of 4/5 September saw the Austrian World Ranking Event held near Villach at Faak am See. Having told everyone I would be there, and not wanting to miss, I decided to attend. In the hope of saving money, I borrowed a bike from one of the Austrian team - I should add that the bike was the Merida O.Nine Multivan team bike, which has been the bike of my dreams all. The event, I hoped, would be a good opportunity to try out the bike I would dearly love to own!

The only disadvantage of a continental European bike is the brakes are back-to-front! Back brake for the right side, front from the left, whereas British bikes are the other way round. It seems the rest of Europe abides by different rules to the Brits, and has to do everything the wrong way round. But, given my ease of adapting to drive on the wrong side, I didn't think it would be too much trouble. I am having more difficulty with the different key set out on this laptop!

I arrived on Thursday and was picked up by Kevin. Mel, David AUS and myself were staying at the Haselsberger house for the weekend, where we enjoyed some really great meals courtesy of K's grandparents!

Saturday was the middle distance race, where the starts were based on reverse order of the WRE list. I had a scrappy race losing a good 5 minutes throughout the course, and catching Sonja Reisinger-Zinkl AUT didn't help my navigation. Too many mistakes, but I was leading for the first 50% of the course, and ended up second - a mere 19 seconds from Michi Gigon AUT. This race then counted towards my WRE points boosting me up from 20th to 15th.

Waking up on Sunday I felt really tired and fatigued. Mentally I was in a different place to the previous day, and knew I would struggle with motivation when the course got tough.

The terrain around Faaker See is really uber physical. There is no relief from the roots and mud, and the onslaught began from the word Go! The Merida coped well in the terrain, and I felt that I owned the bike, telling it where to go - rather than the bike telling me where to go. My downhill, root and mud handling was considerably improved and I had no headache at the finish! Result!

At 65% of the course in the long I was dieing, and by 75% I was dead. It was really all I could do to ride the rest of the course to the finish. But another second result followed, which makes this one of the more successful weekends this year in terms of results.

Photos to follow later.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

New Blog

Hi all,

I have moved this blog to my website

Please follow the blog from the website in the future.

Many Thanks

Em x

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Swedish Maps

I have finally managed to relax post-Sweden after writing yesterday off due to extreme travelling and being awake for 35 hours!

Unfortunately, everything seems to have knocked on to today, and I am feeling slightly under-the-weather. But the sun is shining so I will clean my bikes in a moment!

Here are the maps from the Sweden Training Camp. I have not been able to load my route onto them.

Camp Cup 1: night short. 1st place in 35.50

Camp Cup 2: Long Mass start. 15th place in 73.32

Camp Cup 3: UltraSprint The Crying Mile. 2nd place in 14.43

Camp Cup 4: Middle/Long. 6th place in 70.08

Camp Cup 5: Middle. 1st place in 53.34

Monday, 12 April 2010


Here is an account of the annual Swedish (usually Danish) training camp and season opener ....

Photos by: Per Frost, and Mark Stodgell

Merida MTBO Camp 2010
Åhus, Sweden
The 2010 Merida MTBO camp was held from 8-11th April in Ahus, near Kristianstad in southern Sweden. In previous years the camp has been held in Denmark with beautiful sunny weather and many of the world’s elite athletes descending on the chosen location for 4 days of training and racing. This year the weather was once again sunny, with some hazy mornings and temperatures ranging from 8- 12°C, fairly good considering the snow only melted in this region a couple of weeks ago.
I was travelling from Portugal via London with a complex airport change from Luton to Stansted, with 28kgs of bike-in-a-bag. I had left my Austrians friends and fellow athletes the day before and was meeting them in Copenhagen on Thursday morning. Travelling with me to the camp was ‘camp-first-timer’ Mark Stodgell also of Team GBR.
On arrival at Åhus Strand hotel it was down to business with bike building and then a training ride around one of the nearby sand dune areas. The men quickly set a fast pace, which was surprisingly comfortable in the undulating terrain. That same evening was the first camp cup race, the night sprint. Dreaded by many who fear the dark and by those unexperienced at night MTBO, it is also enjoyed by those nutters who crave night rides and meeting other athletes head-on on small twisty singletracks.
Personally, I love the night MTBO. It is a complex mixture of riding fast, planning ahead, and spotting the path junctions you need. Distance judgement is crucial and many small paths are easily missed when your circle of light is pointing the wrong way at the wrong time. Losing peripheral vision is strange at first, but you soon adapt to spotting obstacles and features immediately approaching. With this race being a sprint, it was complex navigation where you could lose 20 seconds on a leg by taking the wrong route. It was permissible to ride the course before dark, and then have 10 minutes added to your competition time. But I declined this opportunity since I figured it impossible to gain a ten minute advantage over a 35 minute course.
The is no advantage in night MTBO of starting late, you cannot see bike tracks well enough to gauge approaching turns and junctions, and a cyclist ahead of you could be anyone, or just a random punter. I had a pretty good race. I was up for it, ready to go, and despite having a cold, felt fairly strong on the bike. I made a few small route choice errors losing only 90-120 seconds throughout the course, and won in a time of 35.50, with Michi Gigon in second, a mere 16 seconds behind. This was pleasing. During the Portugal training camp I had beaten Michi twice, and now I had done it in a slightly more competitive race. 
It was then straight to bed before an early morning and typically Scandinavian/European breakfast of yoghurt and muesli. Yum! The next day hosted two camp cup races, the long distance mass start, and the ultrasprint - also aptly named the Crying Mile. The long distance in the morning was not nearly as long as last years 3.5hours and 5 map changes. But after I was a spoon to the first control and lost two minutes, I found myself unable to catch the leading pack. No leg strength and a lone rider made this impossible. I was 6 minutes down on the leaders in 15th place.
Re-fuelling at lunch and the sun shining through the cloud made me feel better. The Crying Mile was held on the sand dunes in a complex area of paths on a map scale of 1:1500. The were 17 controls in 1.5km, with all athletes riding the same course. You would think opportunities for following would be prime here, but in fact, many people rode of the map and went exploring for 20 minutes before finding the first control, whilst others failed to grasp the map scale and visited most controls before finding the correct one. I had an almost perfect race until the penultimate control, where I dropped my concentration and rode to the final control, losing 45 seconds and thus my lead to Michi Gigon of Austria. I still managed 2nd place and about 20 seconds behind.
Afternoon training was a map memory course with a slightly unusual concept which could be implemented for armchair technical training!
In the evening I felt worse and worse. My cold and sore throat were creeping back and the next day I woke up feeling utterly exhausted. After getting back into bed pre-middle/long distance I didn’t feel much more alert, but being highly competitive and with camp cup 4, I headed out with the others and managed to pull a 6th place out-of-the-bag, only 4 minutes behind Ksenia Chernyk of Russia. Surprisingly, again I beat Michi, meaning that she took the overall lead, with Ksenia in close second and me a few points behind in 3rd. After some crude calculations, we figured that both Michi and I would drop the points of the long distance meaning I only needed to finish the final race 15 points behind to win overall. With the final race on Sunday in technical sand dunes, it would suit both Michi and myself so the competiton was hotting up. Michi has won the camp cup twice, in 2007 and 2009, as well as winning 12 gold medals in European and World Championships, so she is a very worthy competitor of whom I am honored to get close to in the results this year. Last year I was 5 minutes behind in most races, so I have made a huge improvement in 8 months.
I chose to have a rest afternoon and let my body recover, whilst supporting Mark in Paallikoos Diabolo Challenge - a 100m course of 20 controls where the aim is to standing punch, or use the most effective punching technique to beat your competitor in each round. Mark qualified in 4th fastest and after winning the preliminary round, he was seeded against Andreas Rief of Austria, last years defending champion. It was a tense race, which I couldn’t watch, but after seeing Mark was a control behind at half way, everyone thought Andi had it won. But Mark pulled it back, Andi had punched the last control and appeared to coast towards the finish, whilst Mark aggressively punched a second later and piped Andi to the line. Stodge then won the semi-finals easily, but lost the final after messing up a control. 
Also in the evening were some spot prizes, where random letters and numbers are chosen which correspond to a certain athlete. Merida were sponsoring the camp by providing a Matts TFS 900 XC frame. It was very tense. The first name called was one of the organisers who wasn’t present, so a name was drawn again. And it was me ... I don’t travel  light, too many clothes, so fitting a bike frame in my bag was troublesome!! But I won a bike frame ... this week was turning out to be lucky.
And finally to Sunday, and camp cup 5. After some friendly banter between myself and Michi, with both of us being competitive, the pressure was on. Could Michi win the camp cup for the third time? Or could I ride faster in the technical area? I started 5 minutes ahead of Michi and rode a really good race catching some very good athletes on the way round. Aside from making a few small errors and losing 30 seconds or so, I finished in a good time, although I couldn’t tell my exact time. Michi then finished about 5 minutes after, and I did some crude calculations and guessed that we had done a fairly similar time, but that she had probably just beaten me. At download I was told I had a new fastest time and beat Michi by 90 seconds, and thus winning the camp cup overall, which Johan later confirmed by presenting me with the coveted yellow jersey :-) 
With late evening flights back to the UK we hung out in Copenhagen for a few hours, but for me there was more hanging around once we had landed. I am currently sat writing this in a 24h McDonalds, not that I am eating the food they serve, but London Liverpool Street station closed at 1am and the underground doesn’t re-open until 5.30am for me to get back to Sheffield. Oh joy!
Here are the overall results from the top three women
1  Em Benham   21 Team GBR         
35:50    1  1:13:32   15    14:43    2  1:10:08    6  53:34    1           
1282           960          1268          1136          1278           4964 
2  Michaela Gigon   33 Thömus Team Austria        
36:08    2  1:10:17   13    14:27    1  1:10:44    8    54:54    3           
1273          1080          1279          1124          1240           4916 
3  Ksenia Chernykh   39 RUSSIA VIK                 
42:06    6  1:06:52    1    15:30    3  1:06:31    1    55:00    4           
1091          1207          1234          1206          1237           4884 

Wednesday, 7 April 2010


I am currently stood waiting for myflight back to England to arrive, in Lisbon airport. I have been in Portugal for10 days and have had the best time. Funnily, it has taken me longer to write these three sentences than what it did to check in!!! The keyboard needs a lot of effort.....

Anyway, we spent some time in Porto and then Chaves before heading south to Lisbon for5 days of sun ,sea and biking. Ventured intoLisbon yesterday which, although a nice city, I´m not in a hurry to see it again. Except for the sweet shop by the old elevators!

Training wise, I amfeeling fit again (even beat Michi G twice!). Next up is an aiport transfer from Luton to Stansted and then a flight tomorrow toSweden to meet the Austrians again. It is strange saying goodbye this morning when I will see them in 12 hours! Looking forward toSweden now. More friends to see again after 8 months.


Friday, 26 March 2010

A New Season

I have been on placement at Chesterfield hospital for the last 6 weeks, which has been a mixture of experiences! With all the commuting I have been unable to train as well as I would have liked, but hopefully have not lost a great deal of fitness.

I was concerned that I would not be able to travel as I only managed to finally get my passport on Wednesday ... why do things on time when you can leave them to the last minute and stress about them!

So this morning, it was a 4am start, with some last minute packing and I was on my way to the train station. A four hour train ride, with a couple of changes (not the easiest with a 30kg bag in tow and a heavy rucksack. I made the journey without breaking a sweat and it was the most relaxed travelling has been for a while, if not ever. 

On arrival at Gatwick on of the Easyjet staff permitted me to queue jump (the queue was 60 minutes long) due to my heavy and large bag. From there, I said goodbye to my bike, and headed to the shops for some hair spray, food and Euro's ... and perhaps some perfume :-)

The assistant in the duty free wanted a high five as he liked my earrings! 

During the flight I was restless, but excited to get to Portugal and see all my friends. I had a couple of hours to wait at Porto for the others, but I got chatting to a really hot guy, who was on the same flight with the same bike bag and staying in the same region of Portugal.

The last 8 months have really dragged on, and at times, time has stood still for me. But now I am here, with internet :-) :-) and feeling pretty full after a delicious dinner. Bed time.

Gute nacht x

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Cycling cancelled!

A friend and I had planned to head out on our mountain bikes today for several hours, generally playing around, doing some jumps, skids and drops and such like. Woke up this morning at 9am, looked out the window to find 7cm of snow.

Lets cancel cycling and go skiing instead!

This is what we did ...
Arrived at the slope, and got ready.

Took some pictures

Did some skiing

Did some more skiing, before heading to the pub for a beverage and lunch.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Race Report

Apologies about the old school picture :-) please don't let it come back to haunt me!

British MTBO League - Round 1
13th Feb 2010, Cannock Chase, West Midlands
It was 5am. Stood at the train station waiting for my train to Cannock, I was eager to get there to race. With no expectations of results, there was no pressure, but I still wanted to perform. My selection depended on it.
The date was 3 years ago, and the race was my first MTBO event. My bike: a Giant Boulder with a rusty chain, and a plastic clip on map board. My cycling kit: an Orienteering top and some old shorts. 

Check out the broken saddle, chain guard, and rusted suspension!
After making many mistakes, not really understanding the rules of ‘no cutting across’ through the forest, I finished 5th, behind Helen Winskill, Jenny Peel and Janine Inman. They were the Gods of MTBO in my eyes. People of whom I had no place in beating, they had been to WOC and had been doing the sport for a number of years. Who was I, an Orienteer who had overtrained and fancied something different, but still finished 15 minutes behind the leader. That 5th place was such a motivator as I then emailed the MTBO selectors and ended up racing in the Europeans a few months later.
Fast forward a year to 2008, and I was 2nd to my long rivalled competitor Tony BB. A year on, and I had won, beating Tony by 5 minutes. Of course, when I started the sport all the top women moved on to other things, leaving a considerably smaller group. Or maybe they were just scared of being beaten!
This year, I have only been back in full training for 5 weeks, so although I wasn’t expecting to win, I did expect to have a good race and be fairly accurate with my navigation. But because it was the first race of the season, and perhaps the third time i’ve done any form of MTBO’ing since August, I knew that the potential for mistakes was greater due to ‘rusty’ techniques. I was, however, very motivated and couldn’t sleep the night before as I was too excited!! 
From the start I was having a good race. I had caught one of the men on the A course, which followed the same route as mine for the first several controls, so it gave me more motivation to dig deep in the early stages to keep pace with Bryan. Aside from a small error at a multi-tracked junction, I was pleased with the opening 30 minutes of the course. After this, I started losing a few seconds on each leg when the faster riding kicked in and Stuart Clayton (M18) was able to pull back a few minutes of time. At least I could ride up the hills the men couldn’t, ‘eh Petal’! 

Standing punch at the final control of the Pilsen 5-days in 2009.
Once the technical navigation returned at 2/3rds of the way round, I was able to pick my split time up again. All-in-all, a total time loss of 50seconds which is compromised solely from small hesitations to check I had the correct junction before riding off in the wrong direction. 
I finished in 1st in a time of 79.24 whilst Stuart Clayton finished 2nd in his debut event in a  time of 91.35 and Tony BB in 3rd - 91.49. In 4th, and 2nd woman was Angela BB in 101.00 and 3rd woman was Jene Hoare in a time of 103.34.

Final Placement

This week, the year 3 physio's at Sheffield Hallam started our final placement of the course. It is 6 weeks long taking us up to the 26th March.

I am based in Chesterfield, but it takes an hour to commute in from Sheffield. With getting home at 6.30pm, I am riding my bike in for 3 days a week. Training in the dark for 2 hours a night and not finishing until 9pm just doesn't appeal!

So, my first week. It has been a mixture of a steep learning curve, adjusting to new settings and paperwork, and some positives. I have enjoyed it. At the end of the first week, I am feeling increasingly confident and more independent with my physiotherapy. The last 2 days I have pretty much been running the ward by myself, so this is a totally new experience. With Neurosurgery being complex with unstable patients, I was hardly left alone. This time, I have been managing my own caseload. Exciting stuff!!!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

It's a Beautiful Day ...

Today is the sort of day where the lyrics from U2's It's a Beautiful Day spring to mind.

I thought I'd reccy my cycling route to Chesterfield today as I'm heading there on placement for the next six weeks. It makes sense that I don't turn up late on my first day because I underestimated the time it would take me!

I headed out with a friend, and with the sun shining, we rode up Eccy Road before cutting across through Dore to the top of Totley and up to Owler Bar. Typically, I will feel pleasantly uncomfortable riding up from Hunters Bar, but today, I felt great. Had my good legs on :-)

At Owler Bar, a quick glance behind showed the imminent show shower/storm, which caught us about 30 seconds later. The descent down the back roads to Barlow and beyond was painful on the eyes, but ironically, once at the bottom, the sun was shining again.

On we went to Chesterfield, eyeballed the hospital and turned around into a light show shower. Sun came back out for most of our climb back to Owler Bar, but with 10 minutes to the top, the snow was back with more ferocity than ever. Amazing views from the top over Sheffield once the sun was back out!

The weather was something like: sun, snow, sun, snow, sun, snow, and then finishing in the sun. Which pretty much topped off my day, making it considerably better than the last few. Got a new brand of contact lenses which is like have the finest silk in my eyes. A-maz-ing! Where have they been for the last year? How did I ever put up with dry scratchy lenses and a total wear time of 5 hours a day?

Hopefully tomorrow, will be a good day too :-)

Friday, 29 January 2010


My brother needs some technical Foot Orienteering training to help him improve. He's an awesome runner, who has just been selected to represent Hampshire at XC, but his navigation in technical terrain is ok, but it could be better.

So, I offered him a place to stay in Sheffield for the weekend, and this morning, much to his amusement he was on his way to Sheffield at 6am! I asked GG (WOC relay winner 2008) to coach him and shadow him around a few courses I planned in the peak district. I tagged along, but took a few shortcuts expecting the boys to be running considerably faster!

It was a stunning day at Fox House, clear skies, patches of iced snow and a slight breeze. My southern brother thought it was freezing, whereas us hardened 'northerners' find it mild, like spring come early!

First course of the day was a rocks course, where Jack had to navigate between boulders and crags going from technical to vague and back to technical sections of the map. I think control 4 was interesting, as I ran past/behind the boys I was aware of Jack ... looking lost. Apparently ten minutes later he found the two HUGE boulders and carried on. The end of the course was over the valley so I sat down on the cliff top in the sun and watched as they ran up the hill, then down, had a conflab, ran around again and finally found the rock feature.

Whether it was the early morning, the 90 minutes technical training or a combination of both ... this was the result ...

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

An Amazing Sunset

This morning I was in Uni for 2 hours and then again in the afternoon until 3pm. During the two hour lunch break I headed to the gym for an hour's training and to read my book as I sat on the bike.

The afternoon turned bright and sunny at about 2pm ish and as I sat in the lecture, not feeling the most enthused by the topic being taught, my mind wandered to the beautiful weather and my planned training ride! I was out on my bike doing road intervals by half 3, and stayed out riding around to Hathersage and Ladybower for two hours. Wanting to get an extra interval in, I turned off the Sheffield - Glossop road at the top of the A57, onto a minor road which headed down the ridge. My slight route choice error, (and resultant ride home in the dark) turned into a good move, when I felt the sun warming my back somewhat and the world turned a tinge of pink. I figured that one awesome sunset was going on behind and stopped in my 5 minute recovery period to check it out ...

It was a beautiful sight on such a chilly afternoon, and my vantage point on the ridge made it even better.

I really enjoy evening rides. The smell in the air always reminds me of summer evening rides with the last of the day's sun keeping you warm and the air temperature being somewhat hotter than it is currently! My mind frequently wanders and I often find myself reminiscing about my travels over the last year. Before I know it, two hours have past and I'm knackered!

Monday, 25 January 2010

BUCS Cyclo Cross 2010

The last few weeks I have been getting back into training, managing about 13 hours of quality sessions per week. I'm not doing anywhere close to the hours I did last January, and, although I feel tired, I have made some changes to my training plan, which I hope will start having some positive effects by April!!

Below is a race report of the British Universities and Colleges Sport - BUCS. Cyclo Cross - Wolverhampton 24th Jan 2010

A few months ago I was somewhat tempted to do this race. Why not, I thought, I can buy a ‘cross bike, get in some races and might do ok. When it came to completing the entry forms I filled mine out and sent it, feeling pleased that I would be doing another form of cycle racing that wasn’t solely MTBO.

Funnily enough, I never got a proper bike, and never did any races. A week before the race I was starting to have doubts that I even wanted to put myself through this pain at all! My only experience was a full year ago, when I spent 60 mins groveling around a field axel deep in mud, and was spent by the half way point in the race. So, it is perhaps understandable that I was feeling nervous. 

Sheffield Hallam had entered a team of 4 men and 2 women. My team mate who won the Yorkshire and Northern CX races this season failed to show at the race, which was a huge disappointment to everyone. We drove down to Wolverhampton in the morning of the race and upon arriving, I noticed my front disc brakes were a little worn ... to tell the truth, they were a lot worn! A quick panic and change of pads and my bike was sort-of ready, albeit with 2.1 Racing Ralph tyres. After looking at the track, I realised I probably wasn’t at such a huge disadvantage having my MTB as the course twisted and turned constantly and the steep slopes to the railway line were muddying up throughout the day. My brakes proved superior on these steep sections, only aided by having suspension!

There I was. On the start line of my second ever CX race. With ten other University women. All of whom had the proper kit. Nothing like a last minute confidence boost!

I quickly established within the first half lap, that I was probably going to finish 5th. I had left 4 of the girls behind in the mud and slope sections, whilst the other 4 (looking rather pro) had sped of leaving me in no-mans-land! A bit of head-to-head corner racing with the veteran men proved to go in my favour (perhaps my boisterous road riding skills came in useful, with a little undertaking and use of elbows). I found the first 3 laps ok, pushing a good pace, and with the course not too muddy, I was able to hold a good speed. The final 15 minutes were a painful 15 minutes, where the course suddenly got progressively muddier, bringing back all kinds of Mountain Mayhem 2008 memories. 

Some looking over my shoulder ensued, and one of the girls was gaining, slowly but surely. A bit more power through the pedals. A bit more effort in the mud. A bit more air into my lungs. A bit more of that burning sensation in my legs. And a bit more pain, and I was in the finish, in 5th place!

Amusingly, despite my hesitations pre-race, I didn’t want to drop out of this one, I didn’t have any of those negative thoughts that mid-race can sometimes prove fatal. I enjoyed it, and I can see that next season, cyclo cross will be a great way to improve my cycling skills. I am sure, without a doubt, I will be attending the 2010 season, with the proper kit in hand and a racing licence!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Snow snow snow!

I've spent the last 5 days in Sheffield, and, since I had finished my dissertation before New Year, I have spent most of the daylight hours out skiing. Mostly I've spent a good 4 hours playing around on the 'piste' the sledger's have made, but everything is made much tougher with no ski lift to pull you up to the top again!

Today however, my legs are feeling a bit tired and in need of a change. Since the snow is expected to last for at least another week, if not increasing in depth today with another band of snow due from Russia, I am not in any rush to head out to the 'piste' today.

Instead, I went for a 75 minute run ....

I've not really done much Foot O since I took up MTBO 3 years ago this March, and apart from being badgered into the occasional training session by GG or parents, this is pretty much the first I've done of my own free will. And do you know what? I loved it!

There was something rather nice and peaceful about doing a Foot O session around Bingham Park running through pristine snow. I did wonder on a few occasions what it was that had motivated me to run through snow-hiding-brambles-and-all-kinds-of-crap, but nevertheless, I managed it, and found all 50 checkpoints :-)

This afternoon I'm out to the gym for some spinning intervals, but other than that, I suppose I had better crack on with some Uni work. I don't think the excuse ' I was playing in the snow' will hold up too well!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

A fun day...

I have spent the past 3.5 weeks at home in the 'warm' but sunny south of Wiltshire with my family. Brother = annoying pest. Sister = socialite. Parents = much love and many treats, nice food from Mum and bike rides with Dad. Dog = many cuddles, licks, purring (on her behalf) and a hell of a lot of fur! This has been the longest length of time I have spent at home since I left for Uni 2.5 years ago. I usually head back for a week, 10 days at the most, before I disappear again into the realms of the North, as yet unexplored in great detail by my family!

After a brief flurry of snow 5 days before Christmas, and many hawfrosts and cold sunny days after, I have spent a fair amount of time inside (relaxing) and outside (running and biking). It amuses me that after my first Adventure Race, I have taken up running again to get fitter. Especially considering I still find running boring, mostly due to the fact that I don't go very fast, and lack any form of running fitness to be able to go very far. I usually end up staring at the same piece of tarmac for a long time...

Anyway, I had written 95% of my dissertation before xmas, so I took a good three weeks off before looking at it again. After making a few final changes I had it printed and bound, with 10 days to spare before the hand in. It is due in on Friday, so I have very little to be getting on with until lectures start again on Monday!

Found my skiing boots in the loft at home, and my wishful thinking paid dividends when I got back to Sheffield today to find several inches of snow :-) Thanks Dad for driving me. Bracken seemed to enjoy the trip too, and a snowy walk around the Cemetery was ... just right.

After persuading Dad that I did need a pair of ski's I spent 5 hours, trekking up Porter Brook for 90minutes, and made an attempt at skiing. (Note: I've just re-read this post, and I have no idea what the last sentence was actually meant to say!) Once I had remembered how to turn a corner, it was much more fun without stone walls and barbed wire fences approaching at a slightly out-of-control speed! I then set myself the challenge of skiing back down from Porter Clough (usually at 25 minute moderate MTB ride from my house) back into Sheffield. I managed this ok, working out how to propel myself forwards when on the flat (either stopping and getting a push from James, or getting a tow). We must have been quite a sight on occasion in Endcliffe Park. Me on ski's, James on his snowboard!