Thursday, 27 January 2011

Being ill.

I properly hate being ill. It's like someone's hit the pause button on your life and you disappear into a weird shadow world where nothing happens except discomfort and sickness and endless parades of expelled mucus of varying shades, colours and consistencies.

And of course I'm not 'really' ill. I just have a particularly nasty cold - and to be fair, it's the first really brutal once since, oh, November 2008 or something, so I can't complain. But I hate the feeling of life rushing by outside as some poxy, microscopic virus pins you to the sofa just hacks me off.

And what does the virus get out of it? Does it multiply to the point where it can read great novels or watch classic cinema? Does it feck, it simply lurks around your breathing passages generating mucus and slyly hoping to get passed on to other victims. Oh, and watches crap satellite TV by proxy because I feel too weak to turn the pages of a book - even Feet In The Clouds, which I'm starting to think is somewhat over-rated and driven by misguided 'soft southern envy of mythical 'ard northern fell runner' stuff.

'Archie Wells was brought up on a hill farm on the highest point of Helvellyn. He grew up sleeping behind dry stone walls with sheep for warmth and ran, off road every day to Ambleside and back to go to school. Except on Sunday when, for a change, he'd run to Penrith for the Sunday service then back again via Kendal where he bought a Sunday paper for his ma....

'At the age of 14, Archie won his class at the classic Tilberthwaite Sheep Dip race, but was disqualified for being a professional on account of once having been given half a Mars Bar for finishing a minor junior's race in Borrowdale...'

'These days Archie is a compact, wiry fellow who lives in a dark, cave near Ireby. As he answers the door, you can see the fire in his eyes is still undiminished, and when he brews a cup of tea for me, it's served up in the 1954 Champion of Champions Muckthwaite Fell Cup...

And so it goes on. All you really need to know is that all the historical runners in the book are ridiculously hard and that part of the reason is that they've never really thought much about what they were doing.

Unlike the author, who as a reaction to living in over-crowded, polluted, urban insanity, somewhere seems to have formed the idea of becoming one of them. Which is fair enough, but it's starting to grate. I know legendary fell runners are massively hard. I know that fell running is a daft, nigh on insane sport and what I want to know is WHY?

But that's the question that never gets asked. The 'what are you running away from?' question, if that's what it is...

Yes, being ill makes me grumpy.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


Parachuted - no, not literally - into the Alps for a couple of days by MHW. New gloves, new waterproofs, ridiculously mild temperatures meant NO ICE to climb, so went for a wander across a glacier wearing snow shoes. Bizarrely mellow, nice to be up a mountain, pining for Andean peaks, funny not having an axe or crampons or prussiks and noticing the shadowy, tell-take signs of crevasses under the snow. Not a bad day at the office.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Ooops, I built a devil bike...

 Blown away, really. Just grinning. It has sharp, pointy teeth and bright shiny eyes. It climbs like a cartoon cat after a mouse and descends like a startled yak. And it carves turns like a hungry penguin hunting fish.

It wants to go fast. Very, very, very fast.

It is just absolutely feckin' brilliant.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Folding tyres.

Somehow the two tyres that came on my first ever mountain bike some decades ago have been breeding. Like rabbits. Or Triffids. Or some sort of insane single-celled rubber organism. So now there are piles of them intertwined in the kitchen cupboard.

Old ones crusted in mud from long-forgotten trails. Newer ones with faint traces of southern Spanish dust. And, thanks to the wonders of tubeless conversions, tyres lined with a second skin of dried-on, bubbling, stringy latex.

As the funny thing about tyres is that they expand exponentially when not folded. And they never seem to wear out.

So I'm folding them. Rolling them up into neat, compact rounds with the tread on the outside so I might at least recognise them from their knobbly signature. Then stacking them neatly. It's therapeutic and strangely narrative at the same time.

Tyres catalogue days and places and conditions. Narrow Schwalbes and Michelins left over from 24-hour races, odd Fat Alberts from the days when I thought they were great and screw the mass, fast but treacherous Geax Saguaros from the post-Schwalbe era and odd things - failed experiments like Panaracer Rampages - good on paper, roll like a hedge-hog on day-old custard - a solitary Maxxis Aspen, not much quicker than an Ardent but with about a hundredth of the grip and a pair of - stil-packaged and free - WTB Prowlers, that I can't imagine ever using.

And then there's the Ice Spikers, sat quietly in the corner with their sharp teeth, hissing quietly at the other tyres and waiting for their brief week of life to come around again.

But they take up too much room. And there are far too many of them. So here I sit, drinking hot chocolate and folding tyres.

[How come I already have a tag for tyres eh?]

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Good riddance to 2010...

Finished off 2010 with a local ride for local people, up three local climbs and back again, on the Rat. Views of Yarkshire - Holme Moss - like Derbyshire but further away.

Views of dark fog at Snake Summit. Thank gawd for reflective posts, at least I knew I was at the top.

Views of Glossop's fabled twinkling New Year lights from the Monk's Road. Not many people know this, but some of those lights are simply giant fish fingers illuminated from within by the lost souls of battered haddock.

Here's to better fish in 2011.