Tagged: Fitness

Winter Wolf Run 2015

The aches are back! (But at least I can walk this year!)

Sunday, November 8th 2015.
My fourth Wolf Run and my favourite course out of the two. This year I’ve managed to run all the “seasons” apart from the Autumn, which sold out ridiculously quickly! In the Summer, I ran at Stanford Hall and found a strangely muddy course, more so than the Winter Run the year before. For this run I expected there to be lots of mud but maybe not quite as much as the Summer due to the cooler temperatures. Unfortunately the warm October and the wet start to November totally destroyed that idea. I was in for a mud bath!

Yet again, I haven’t done any running training, with the only exercise being my cycling, never the less, I was fairly confident. It was warm (base layers probably weren’t needed…) and although it was threatening rain, nothing fell from the sky. A four Weetabix breakfast, a couple of coffees and a few chocolate flapjacks and I was ready to run.

The organisers switched things up a bit this time round by reversing the course. Usually the slippy, muddy woodland section is at the start and being full of energy I can normally skip over the rough ground without a problem. The reverse course was different. By the time I hit that final section I was drained and could barely summon up the energy for a fast walk.

The course started with the swims. Now I haven’t swam in years, over 10 years, so I always avoid the first proper swim. It’s probably all psychological but with the shock from the cold water I’m convinced I’d never make it to the other side. A couple of hay bail obstacles lay before the second “swim” which were easily scaled. This “swim” is a bit deceiving. You can actually walk through it, although the water does come high up on my chest. The water was cold, but not as cold as 2014, it didn’t take my breath away nearly as much as it did the year before. The organisers had thrown something new in here too… A giant float across the river. A quick dip in the water to get underneath it doesn’t seem like much but I was seriously considering turning back and running around that section. I didn’t back down though. Although it was only a quick dive under, I really had no idea where I was or how far I’d travelled. Breaking the surface, clear of the float felt good! My GoPro didn’t like the sudden drop in temperature though and after that it really began to fog up.

The rest of the course was pretty straight forward. The usual obstacles were dotted around in different locations. I cleared the monkey bars without too much trouble, climbed the walls (having to ditch my gloves on a couple of occasions), balanced over the log walks where most were crawling and dived as hard as I could down the slide. The only obstacles that I despise is one I haven’t included in the video. It’s a big structure, with smooth telegraph poles positioned horizontally on different levels. The aim is obviously to step / jump from one to another but with the ground conditions each pole gets ridiculously slippy. Combine that with my lack of flexibility and it means I have to cling to the metal frame at the edge to even have a hope of making it across.

As for the mud, well, it was intense! The main bog seemed to have grown in size and was causing a massive bottle neck. Some brave folks were trying to get through the middle but the mud was so thick and deep (up to their waists) that they were simply getting stuck. Runners were trying to get around the edges in the shallow areas and climbing over any tree they could. I stopped for a while to help out and drag some runners free from the mud. The first guy you’ll see in the video was really tough to pull free. He was up to his waist and the amount of force I was having to put in, felt like I was about to dislocate his shoulder. I eventually got him free with the help of a fellow runner who was stuck in the mud but it wasn’t easy. One poor women to the left needed the help of 6 or so runners to dig her out and pull her free.

The mud just sucks your energy. That’s definitely what killed my energy levels and made the whole course a challenge. I’ve washed my clothes off today and my shorts and shoes were completely brown, caked in mud. I wouldn’t change it for the world ūüėČ

It wasn’t a quick run for us. The bottlenecks we encountered and stopping to help at the bog slowed us down a lot. One of the runners I was with was also carrying an injury (and picked up another during the run) and despite his appeals for us to just run on we couldn’t leave him. It took us nearly 2.5 hours to cover just 10kM. I think the fastest runners I went with did the course in nearly 45 minutes quicker and the quickest of the weekend ran the course in under 50 minutes (We’re quite curious how that time was so fast with all the obstacles…). Despite the slow timing I had a great time. It’s a great day out and I have a laugh.

There aren’t any pictures out just yet but as soon as they’re out I’ll post some. Thanks to all the event organisers and marshalls! It was a great year of events. I’ll be back for 2016 to run all four and become an Alpha Wolf!


Staffordshire Cycling Festival – My First Sportive

And my first 100km ride.  What did I think? Well watch and read below.

Having never ridden the distance of 66 miles before or participated in a sportive I wasn’t really sure what to expect. ¬†I was honestly hoping it would be along the same lines of the Wolf Runs. ¬†Fun, energetic and full of team work. ¬†If it was, I missed those parts. ¬†Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it. ¬†I enjoyed the feeling of satisfaction, that I pushed myself a bit further and managed to place fairly high but the whole event was lacking a buzz for me.

The weeks prior to the event I’d been getting out on the bike a bit more, trying to push my commutes further but I still hadn’t pushed myself near the 66 miles. ¬†The UK had been hit with a heatwave on the event week and it had forced me off my bike. ¬†The heat was killing me off so I had to stop riding for a few days. ¬†Luckily it cooled down for the event, with the night before bringing the most awesome thunder storm I have ever seen. ¬†Unfortunately that meant the course was soaked for us in the morning but at least it was cool!

I’d managed to get to the event early and being one of the first to sign on, I got myself into the first wave. ¬†When I arrived it seemed like the event team were still setting up, which became even more apparent when 8am came and the ride began. ¬†We didn’t even make it out of Shugborough Hall before a lack of marshalling and signage caused the first wave to split. ¬†Half the group went left and the other half went right. ¬†I initially followed the group going right but when I crossed an uncovered cattle grid, I turned around and headed back. ¬†The cattle grids on the other road had been covered so it made sense to me that they would cover the ones on the race route. ¬†Apparently it didn’t make sense to the organisers as when I finally found some marshalls I was told to go back the way I came. ¬†Nightmare start.

After that fiasco I tagged onto the back of a pair of riders who were taking it easy. ¬†I felt their pace was slow, a bit too slow, but I didn’t want to exert myself. ¬†Out on the main road we were going steady when a big group from the second wave passed. ¬†I’d picked up a new shirt for the event, a Foska, “Wallace & Gromit” shirt which read “Keep up lad!” on the back. ¬†One rider in the pack that passed called out to me, “Morning Gromit” and that acted a bit like a red flag to a bull to me. ¬†I sped up and sat at the back of that pack.

Riding with this group was easier, a better pace but I wanted to push myself a bit more so constantly tried to push forward. ¬†throughout the entire 66 miles I seemed to pass, and get passed by the same people. ¬†I’d be riding solo, catch a group up and pass them and then further down the road I’d look back and they’d come sailing by. ¬†That kept me going. ¬†Having a rider in front is something to aim for. ¬†I keep wanting to pass them so I kept pushing.

That mindset kept me going but it also made me miss two food stops. ¬†I felt the first one was too close to the start so made a conscious choice to miss that but the second I didn’t even see. ¬†I was so caught up in chasing one particular group I completely missed it. ¬†Soon after I felt like I hit the wall but I’d stocked up on caffeine gels and after taking one it felt like I was a new man.

The miles ticked away and I enjoyed the course.  Some parts were nice, wide A roads while others were tight, twisty and dirty country lanes.  There were plenty of hills to contend with and the final few in Cannock Chase almost finished me off.  When I finally saw the gates to Shugborough Hall I was pretty damn relieved!  A quick ride through the grounds and a blast to the finish and it was all over.

I managed a time of 4 hours, 23 minutes and 36 seconds according to the official timing. ¬†This put me 93rd out of 331 riders which I’m pretty pleased with. ¬†Strava puts my time at 5 minutes less and if I hadn’t taken a wrong turn at the start it would have been even quicker but I’m pleased never the less. ¬†My time was a whole 30 minutes quicker than the average!

I’ll probably end up doing another Sportive in the future but it won’t be for the fun and excitement, it will purely be to better myself. ¬†I guess road riding and sportives just aren’t as exciting as I thought!

Spring Wolf Run – The Result


Honestly, the fitness and training didn’t really go to plan. I did two, maybe three, 3 mile runs in prepartion, along with my standard cycling. Any form of diet went out of the window months ago so building up to this event I figured my calves were going to die a horrible death again. On the winter run I’d been able to keep pace with one of my friends but since then she’s trained non stop in order to crack the hour barrier… there’s no way I could compete with that.

Still, Sunday came, the sun was shining and I was ready to go. I knew Lou was going to try and keep pace with the faster runners so my first thought was to keep behind with our slow runners but after the first set of obstacles I found myself wanting to push on. They weren’t going fast enough. I made a decision to lone wolf it.

I ran on and started tackling the obstacles solo, helping a few others out but managing to get over / up everything by myself. There seemed to be a lot more solid running on this course compared to the Winter Wolf. I missed the mud pits, deep bogs and deep wades. I missed the log crawl and the hay bails. It seemed like a much easier course.

The running was good. I kept a steady pace and my body held together. I only suffered a brief, painful stitch, but managed to push through trying not to stop. I wasn’t going to chance the swim. It’s been years since I’ve been swimming and the combination of fatigue, icy waters and lack of ability seemed like a good reason to miss it out. Before I knew it I was at 7KM and pushing through to the finish. I somehow managed to complete the course in 90 minutes. I’m sure the Winter Wolf took us over 2 hours!

My favourite part? The slide. I took a nice big run up to get all the speed I could and ended up ploughing face first into the pool at the bottom… with an open mouth… but it seemed to wake me up and give me some more energy to get to the finish.

Of course I ran with the GoPro so I’ve put together a small edit.

I honestly felt great after the run. The severe aches and pains I had after the Winter Wolf were non existant. I was a little cold and in need of a burger but I could walk! Even this morning I could jump out of bed and walk around freely. It seems I did just enough training this time to get me through!

The Summer Wolf is already being booked. It’s on the same course as the Winter Wolf so slightly tougher, but I’m going to aim to improve on the 90 minutes. Bring on the next one!

50 Days To Go

Back in November I took part in my first Obstacle Course Run, namely the Wolf Run. It was completely unprepared for. I’d known about it for months but damaged my back and couldn’t get into any sort of training and with the injury just about healed I ran the 10km. Not having ran a brief stint in the gym years before it was tough going. My calves cramped up a couple of KM in and my energy levels dropped drastically a few KM from the end. It took a good few hours (I think) and a good deal of motivation from the team I ran with.

Despite the tough 10KM I initially felt quite good but later in the evening my body was screaming. The next few days were painful. I was hunched over walking in pain and getting out of a chair, or even sitting down in one was a chore. My legs were destroyed. Serves me right really.

So after all that it makes complete sense that I’ve signed up for the first Wolf Run of 2015. You’ll easily work out it’s in 50 days and I plan to fit in a lot of training in that time. I want to be able to walk the next day without too much pain. I certainly don’t want to be in pain a week after. Ten kilometers might not seem a lot, and in terms of my cycling it’s not, but I’m not a runner. I’ve damaged my knees several times snowboarding and they don’t like impact sports now. Cycling is easy. Running hurts.

Still… I need to complete train. I need to prove to myself I can do it.

I’ve really let myself slide over Christmas and New Years (and yes I know it’s almost March) so I’m now at 77KG. Let’s say I’m 5’9″… That weight means I’m boarding on the classification of “overweight”. I’m not going to kid myself. It’s not all fat. I have a pretty physical job and still have a good amount of muscle definition but there’s definitely more fat than there should be. In my prime I was floating around the 60KG mark, for now, I want to aim for 65KG. This run is going to give me the determination to reach that goal.

I’ve started it all off today with setting up my “MyFitnessPal” app again to track my calorie intake. It is a bit of a chore weighing out food and limiting my intake but without good nutrition I’m not going to make any progress. I’m on a sub 2000 calorie goal so that means if I want my usual luxuries of the Friday night Pizza or Saturday Pork Pies and Cider I’m going to have to work for it.

That app is going to be backed up with another that I use regularly: Strava. Strava is going to be used to track all my rides and runs. I’ve got quite competitive with it before, battling for KOMs around town and pushing myself to beat all the MAMILs who ride my regular routes. I left the car at home today and went on a 23 mile ride on the fixie to start things off. It felt good to get some fresh air in my lungs and the blood pumping so an hour ago I went for a run around the block. I ran a 2.8 mile route fairly easily, setting myself a benchmark of 10 minute miles. Slow I know, but it’s somewhere to start.

I’ll post updates every week on the fitness and the road to the Wolf Run. Sometimes I need something “big” like the Wolf Run to give myself the motivation. Wish me luck…

Wolf Run

Honestly, I’m not a runner. I haven’t ran any sort of distance since 2008/9 maybe. Back then I was going to the gym all the time, training for a few runs but ended up training too hard and screwing up my knees. That injury was made worse by several bad falls Snowboarding which again, resulted in a twisted knee. I don’t learn though, and I don’t let injuries heal lie I probably should so every time I’ve tried to run since then my knees give way after a few hundred meters.

It only makes sense then, that I’d sign up to a 10KM outdoor, cross country, obstacle run. That’s also after putting my back out at work and not being able to do any training before the run. I didn’t think this was going to end well…

I’ll tell you what though… it was amazing.

Sure the 10km absolutely destroyed me, my calf muscles tightened up a couple of KM in and ploughing through left me unable to really walk properly for a few days but I don’t regret any of it.

It was on the 2nd November and to be honest, despite the rain it was pretty warm for a winter run. I had on base layers, t shirt and shorts and even in the water I felt warm all the way around. At the start I made really good pace, keeping up with my super fit friend who ran ahead, but we got back with our group and my energy levels dropped. The field running killed me. I find it repetitive and dull. I came alive for the obstacles though.

The mud. The mud was awesome. Crawling through it under cargo nets, running through it and ending thigh deep in a thick gloopy bog actually brought my energy levels back up. I think that’s when the adrenaline kicked in. I was more than happy to throw myself in, wade through chest deep muddy pools and river crossings. I had no energy left for running at the end but the nets and the wall climbs recharged me enough to get to the end. I felt more alive on the strenuous obstacles then on the simple “easy” runs.

Not wanting to miss the opportunity for some GoPro footage I wore my “Chesty” mount. Unfortunately the case started to steam up, and I ran out of dry clean clothes to wipe it down so the footage deteriorates throughout. Hopefully you can get a sense of the run in this 20 minute video though:

It hurt to run that far with no training but I want to do more. I’m looking at doing all four Wolf runs next year and training has already begun. Sticking to what I know I’ve got back on the bikes but I’m going to be going on weekly runs with weighted back packs to get the legs used to running. I did another 5KM at the weekend and that hurt, but it ca only get easier right?

The Road To Wiggle – Back to Cannock

Last Summer I had my arm twisted into joining a few rides over at Cannock Chase. I loved it. Before I rode it I thought I’d be terrible, the trails would be petrifying and I’d end up smashing my face off a tree. The truth was in the nice dry Summer months I didn’t fall off once and only got faster and faster as my confidence grew, even on my old hard tail.

But I haven’t been since, late September (I think)… until today.

With all these “Wiggle” events I want to do I thought it would be a good idea to get back on the mountain bike and climb some hills. The Epic routes are around 35 miles and sure that’s easy enough on a road bike and I even thought I could pull it off on a mountain bike but today changed my mind slightly. It’s going to be hard work!

With all the rain we’ve had recently I knew the trails would be waterlogged and muddy so bought a few mudguards and some wider tyres to help me round the course. I don’t know why I bothered with the guards to be honest, I still got covered in mud. I was also meant to be riding my usual route with one of my friends who had never experienced Cannock Chase before. Unfortunately she doesn’t have her own bike and with the bike shop on site being out of “standard” rentals and wanting ¬£30 + ¬£1000 pre authorisation for a “premium” rental she decided not to go. (Who has ¬£1000 sitting in their bank account?!). Luckily for me, a lad I know from my Honda days was also heading over with a group of friends so I managed to tag along.

The route I normally take in an 8 mile loop but Chris had in mind the full circuit. I thought it wouldn’t be a problem until I discovered the section I normally miss out is full of long hard climbs. The ground was soaking, parts waterlogged, parts chewed up mud and nearly all slippy. It was a tough 12 miles! According to Strava we climbed a total of 1,303 ft and it really took its toll on both me, and the bike.

Near the top of one of the first steep climbs I managed to bring back up the pre ride RedBull I’d had and halfway round I forgot to take the lockout off before one of the descents and at the bottom took a tumble. There were a couple of other “oh shit” moments where I slipped off the pedals down a rocky descent and went over the handle bars down some stairs but lucky I’ve only suffered a few cuts and bruises. My bike on the other hand…well… On one climb the chain decided to jam and once I’d freed it, it then decided to snap. Luckily I carry spare links and tools so I was able to fix it but later on, in the fall, I managed to break the remote lockout lever off my handlebars. It was certainly an eventful ride but if nothing else it’s proved how unfit I’ve got.

A few repairs are needed now but I’m aiming to get over to Cannock once a week to conquer the hills and rebuild my fitness. 12 miles and 1300 feet climbing killed me today. 35 miles isn’t looking promising.

I did take my GoPro with my today too but unfortunately the battery decided to die before me fall and the other interesting descents. I’ve also realised how bad the handlebar mount makes the quality of the footage after seeing the footage from one of the lads I was riding with. Hopefully next time I’ll have the GoPro “Chesty” and be able to fix mine to my body and avoid all the violent shaking. For now, I’m going to post Andy’s footage so you can see how they rode on their full suspension bikes (a lot quicker then me on a hard tail!)

The Road To Wiggle – Close Call

Since getting myself the new road bike and setting the goal of a 100 mile ride I haven’t actually been able to make much progress. The weather has been pretty terrible lately, with lots of wind and rain so there haven’t been many opportunities to get on the bike. In fact, there’s only been two times but both times I’ve managed a 32 mile ride before calling it quits.

The first ride on the new bike was awesome. It felt so much better to ride than the Falcon but I made a rookie error and didn’t eat enough before heading out. I was done for by mile 25 and limped home slowly in a low gear. Ignoring the lack of energy though, I was really impressed with the bike. It was much easier to climb hills because of the lightweight frame and clipless pedals. Changing gear was no longer a chore of taking a hand off the bar and trying to work out the best position to shift to. Braking is massively improved too! It was my first decent ride in a while so the Strava time didn’t exactly compete with my summer times on the Falcon but I don’t think I’m too far off. There was one small issue… The clipless pedals really catch you out if you’re not used to them. When I started off I was all over the road trying to engage the clip but when I came up to the first red light and had to stop I almost ended up in a pile on the curb. I completely forgot to unclip but somehow managed to save myself from looking like a complete tit. I didn’t make that mistake again…

The second ride, this morning, was much better! No issues with pedals at all and fully fuelled I managed a steady 32 miles without any real fatigue. It was a nice ride, the sun was shining and although there was a strong gusty headwind in places, the roads were pretty empty. Empty until I got back into town and I almost ended up under the wheels of a car. After turning right at a set of traffic lights, there was a road immediately on the left that I saw a car approaching pretty quickly from. Despite the give way signs and markings on the road the person driving seemed completely oblivious to me and pulled straight into my path. I hit the brakes HARD and I’m glad to say they work, so much so I was on one wheel for a second or two. The driver didn’t even flinch when I shouted obscenities at her either, she just quickly glanced over her shoulder and was off. That was the closest call I’ve ever had on a bike and it could have been a horrible end to the second ever ride of the Holdsworth.

So after that ride I’ve decided I need to invest in two things. A small lightweight helmet cam and a pair or two of seamless boxer shorts. I have a GoPro but it’s quite bulky and it doesn’t properly fit on my cycling helmet. Any recommendations for a similar smaller cam would be greatly welcomed. It would need enough capacity to be able to film around 3 hours or more, just in case someone tries to run me over again… The other item, the boxer shorts, are more of a comfort item. I don’t ride in Lycra and today I found my “normal” underwear was chaffing like mad and broke the skin in a rather sensitive area. If I’m going to be doing longer and longer rides I don’t want that to happen again!

Touch wood all this crappy weather will clear up soon because I really want to start making some progress with the ride distance. There’s a pretty big gap between 32 and 100 miles!

Next Years Aim

For the last few months I’ve really been slacking (when it comes to cycling and fitness). Over the Summer I discovered “Strava” and the competitive side in me kicked in. I rode hard almost every day to see if I could reach the top spot of the local leader boards and I even bought myself the Falcon so I could expand my conquest onto the roads. It was going pretty well until the short British Summer decided to come to an end and well, I decided I didn’t want to ride in the rain.

Now it’s December and after an intense Custard Cream addictive I’ve looked down at my waistline and realised I had to go cold turkey. Cutting out junk food will help (until the Christmas Dinner(s) arrive) but I need to find myself some motivation. I’ve been out on a couple of rides with Strava but I if I solely rely on that it’ll come to a point where I look out the window and think, “Meh, maybe skip today’s ride, it looks a bit shitty outside” and that will be the beginning of the loss of motivation. I need the competition but I also need something to aim for, and I think I’ve found it.

I noticed one of my friends had posted some photos from a cycling event. It was a mountain bike course and it spiked my interests. After asking about the event I found out it was an event run by Wiggle / UK Cycling Events. I knew there were some cycling events around the country but I hadn’t really looked into them before so when I found this site and saw the amount of events they run throughout the year I had a bit of a “Eureka” moment! Looking through some of the events I began to think… I can do that. They’re more than a bit further then I’ve ever rode before but with a bit of training I’m sure I can manage a few.

I’m hoping to enter at least three. Two mountain bike courses and one road course if all goes to plan but I may end up doing more. My mountain bike is as good as ready to take on the courses I’ve seen. They don’t look too technical but at 33 miles for the epic course, I’m sure the distance would take its toll half way around. The road courses look a bit tougher, at up to 100 miles for the epic course and some in very hilly areas. They could prove a challenge and the Falcon would need a complete overhaul before attempting one.

The only “problem” I can see with the courses is that the majority of them seem to be down in the South of England so it’s going to be a long drive just to even get down there! Still, for a T Shirt at the end it must be worth it ūüėČ If anyone fancies joining me on one of the course of is doing one that I can tag along on then please shout up. I don’t really have a preference as to which course to do just yet so I’m open to offers.

I’ve got around 11 weeks to the first one of the year so I’m going to have to get training. I’ll be heading over to Cannock Chase a lot more and hopefully riding longer distances on the roads. Fingers crossed it all pays off.

To add in a bit more motivation and a goal, if the training is going well and I feel the 100 mile epic road ride is in reach (I’ve ridden 25 miles at most on the road so far) I’m going to look at sponsorship for a cancer charity. It seems the organisers of those events have already teamed up with Prostate Cancer Research but with my mum being a survivor of Breast Cancer I’d like to give any money raised to the charity of her choice (or charities). So there’s another goal. Ride four times as far than I’ve previously done over more difficult terrain in the name of Cancer Research. Fingers crossed.

I’ll post updates of how the progress is going so keep an eye out for those but until then, wish me luck ūüėČ