Monday, 5 December 2016

Inaugural Centurion Running Wendover Woods 50 ultra-marthon race report

I'm not really sure whether I was looking forward to this run. I don't recall any excitement or even apprehension before it. It was simply a date in the diary that I'd be running 50 miles with near 10,000 feet of climbing.

The day started with a large field with lots of cars. Not the usual Centurion start I thought. I registered, dropped a kit bag off and cuddled myself to keep warm. I didn't see a single soul that I recognised, except for Susie Chan, because everyone recognises Susie Chan.

We walked a short way down to the start and heard the familiar race briefing. I was puzzled at a chap running around with a camera pointing at shoes and trying to coax people into an impromptu interview. I let him be. I was in a world of my own, waiting to get started and be away with the trails.

The first lap

The first lap was done at a good pace. 1:55 or there about. I stopped only briefly at the midway aid station, thanks to a doggie-bag tied to my pack, and for a touch longer at the start of the 2nd lap. I found I didn't need to top up my water bottles for at least the first 15 miles owing to the cool temperatures and short distance between aid-stations. If I was doing the run again, I'd only bring one bottle with me.

Unlike point-to-point marathons, and perhaps because of the extreme elevation change, the runners were bunched up more than I'd have expected. And again, the extreme elevation probably kept chatter to a minimum. Except for Susie Chan. She and her friends were having a right old natter! Though I confess that I enjoyed the background noise to an otherwise eerily silent wood.

The route itself is tough. It demands attention and effort all of the time, but rewards with some absolute corkers of trail that twist and dance through the woods, with such steep gradients that you nearly fall forward. Nothing too technical, but there was little opportunity to switch off and glide.

The second lap

If lap one was a flyer, then lap two was a stinker. My knee started to 'ping' early on and whilst I tried to ignore it, the whole second lap was spent limping and struggling. It was the familiar ITBS and I felt like my ticket was up. I'd pushed myself too far into a corner and my body was no longer willing to accept my brazen orders. The thought of stopping was delicious to my mind. I could stop, warm-up and forget about all of this running crap. Oddly I found going up hill was a relief, but downhill was agony. It was at this low that I thought of Becky Shuttleworth popping pills like they were candy on the A100. So, in her honour, I had a cheeky single ibuprofen and painkiller and hoped they'd kick in quickly.

I think it was on the second loop that I saw Kojiro who's a good buddy that I've ran with a few times. Being taller than him and being further up the hill, it probably wasn't the most sensible way to begin a friendly hug. I think he must have caught a face-full of doggie bag, but it was a delight to see him. He was going strongly and I let him fly by within a few minutes. Like a demented game of cat and mouse, he finished only 15 minutes ahead of me, but for the 12+ hours we were out there, we only saw each other for 2 minutes. Madness.

The third lap

By lap 3 I was feeling better, but staying sensible. For some reason this was the longest of the laps. Not in time, I don't even know how long it took, but for some reason in my head I thought that this was the second to last lap. Because the third lap brings me to the fourth lap, and when I finish the fourth lap, I'll be at the number five and this insidious run ends at the number five, right? RIGHT?

My terrible maths was distracting me from my running and drew my focus to how I was feeling and how much further there was to go, which is rarely ever a good thing.

The fourth lap

But, by the fourth lap I was feeling pretty good. I contemplated whether I was enjoying the race, and whilst I concluded that I was happy to be out there, it's not a route or a race format that I'd quickly sign-up to again. I found that I felt happiest telling myself that on the next lap it would be the very last time I had to run this hill, or dodge those roots or feel mocked by seeing the midway aid-station a solid few miles before I was able to banquet there. Yes, I was absolutely happy that this race was almost over.

The fifth and final lap

So with that, I can't really describe what came over me on the fifth lap, because my inner voice had changed so that I was now upset that this was perhaps the last time I was going to run this trail. I savoured the trails and jumped into the downhills. I marched the ups and thanked the marshalls with big smiles and waves. I won't say that the thought of the race ending wasn't a big part of my happiness, and certainly knowing the route well enough by then that I knew how far I was away from the end was handy, but overall I was genuinely happy to be out in the dark running around a small wood in the Chilterns.

Thank you to the Marshalls

More so than in any other Centurion race did I want to thank the volunteers. I was out running around and staying warm, but these lovely souls were standing around, no doubt going through as much struggle as were, to provide us with the support we needed to complete our run. Can't thank them enough.

A final thank you to Bessie

We found each other on 'The Snake', a rather steep and long hill that seemed to go on forever. It wasn't something we planned, but I seized the moment and took Bessy in my hand and we would go to help each other up the rest of the hills on lap 5 and we crossed the line together as well. I couldn't have done those last few miles without Bessy, you're the most beautiful stick I ever did see.

Bessie and me, with men carrying straight jackets just out of shot

Next up: North Downs Way 50 in May 2017 (and a kid being born between now and then).

Garmin trace of the Centurion Running Wendover Woods 50
Photos from Stuart March photography

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Inaugural Centurion Running Chilterns Wonderland 2016 ultra-marathon race comment

For the sake of future reference, I'm going to share this 'comment', rather than a regular race report on the Centurion Running Chiltern Wonderland 50 mile ultra-marathon.

I wouldn't do it again

There, I said it. Centurion can't please everyone, even though their organisation, support and community really are fabulous. I just simply couldn't get on with this run. I've run parts of the route before and it wasn't overly difficult, even though the elevation is quite a lot more than their other 50 milers. No, for me it was the constant twist and turns. I never seemed to be going in one direction for all that long before I had to change course. I also found that there was a lot more road than I'd have liked, though I admit that may just have been because the last few miles were on tarmac and seemed to go on forever.

Typing this several months after the event I can't remember a single outstanding moment. I loved some of the big hills, but otherwise I couldn't tell you much about the route or describe any of the trails or how they made me feel.

Overall, I'm definitely glad I did it and if friends were doing it in the future I would to, but I'm happy enough to leave it as a one-off event.

All photo credits to Stuart March Photography.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

10 things I learned volunteering at the Centurion Running North Downs Way 100

I'd completed the run myself in 2015 in a very steady 28 hours. I was a wreck by the end and, thinking on it, I was a wreck pretty much at the start too. The sun was relentless and no matter how much water I carried from one checkpoint, I was dry and gasping long before the next.

Through those 28 hours, I had the support of my wife in the evening and fellow runners, but perhaps something that I can only now fully appreciate, after volunteering to be part of the 'Centurion Army', is that in fact I was supported by probably well over 100 other people.

Caterham, aid station 5

What a team and what a fantastic group of people as well. Devoted in serving others, freely giving up their time and so enthusiastic and Altruistic in helping every single runner who came through.
  • "You want those bottles filled?... Just drop them and go find some food."
  • "How are you finding it? Anything I can do to help?"
  • "Taken any electrolytes on yet. Remember to take it steady in this heat."
  • "Top-up anyone? How about trying coke with a bit of water?"
  • "You take the seat, I'll get the bladder out."
I'm not going to say it was easy, especially as there were a fair few very frantic moments, but even with the effort and focus needed to get everything done and get everyone served in the least amount of time, it was a genuine pleasure and a real joy to be there. To be some small part in support other ultra-runners achieving their goal is something I'd recommend for any other runner who has yet to give something back to the community. And you may learn a thing or two along the way as well, as I did.

From L to R, Chris (the boss lady), John (fruit-man), Scott (time-man),
Stephen (time-man) and Paul (water and muffin-man)

10 things I learned volunteering for an ultra-marathon

  1. Nuun electrolytes were a very welcome gift to the runners. I brought two packs with me, but perhaps 3 would have covered the whole day better
  2. The more jugs you have for serving out water the better. We started with 2 water, 1 coke and 1 electrolyte and then we found a third for an extra water. I would have easily worked with 5 water jugs
  3. Coke and water is a new thing and everyone seemed to love it. Came from a suggestion from aid-station 4 and a bunch of people were asking for it - must try it myself
  4. A funnel would have made things a lot easier when pouring water from a 25 gallon can. A wedged paper bowl did a good job, but I'll bring a wide funnel next time
  5. Water melon was the food of choice and I learned that it's loaded with electrolytes too
  6. Water melon, tangerines and pineapple were the most popular choices, with biscuits and sandwiches the less popular. Guess the heat attracts people to fresh and moist fruits
  7. The race leaders who came through ate so little and carried tiny little bottles, don't know how they do it
  8. Serving when you've been through that experience before makes everything that little bit more real and really motivates to help them as best you can. At one point, someone had left behind their own electrolytes, dashing off to return them, it was clear that was much appreciated. And I know I would have been close to tears if when I came to use them and they weren't there
  9. You get to see everyone in the race! Such an odd experience, but I got to see every single person who came through Caterham. If my Go-Pro hadn't failed, then I would likely have had photos of the lot of them too
  10. If you're going to use a Go-Pro to capture the race in photos, check the battery and check the settings. Mine died within 20 minutes and I didn't even get a single runner!
  11. Bonus learning! Cover yourself in sun-tan lotion, it's a long day out there and the back of my legs and arms are somewhat glowing and crunchy right now
Caterham aid station 5

Monday, 23 May 2016

Centurion running North Downs Way 50 2016 ultra-marathon race report

My preparation and running strategy for the Centurion 2016 North Downs Way 50 ultra-marathon, much the same as my strategy for every other run, can best be described through the experience I've had with my toenail.

My biggest-toenail on my biggest-toe on my biggest-right-foot was damaged as a result of the NDW100 last year. It never really recovered, but never really gave up its affections for its toe and doggedly held on - even through another ultra-marathon, the 2016 SDW50. However, with increased 'training' recently, and the demand from my wife that I cut my toenails the day of the event, it gave up the ghost and mostly detached itself. A swift tug would have completed its demise.

Why am I telling you this again? Because it's a near perfect example of how I deal with pre-race and race running strategy. I don't. My toenail had pretty much fallen off of my toe and yet I simply placed it back into its seat and slapped a plaster around it. No one would be the wiser, not even me.

So when I asked Justin 'Jimmy' Bateman (above right (love running with that guy, BTW)) on the run "When does it feel like you're running 50 miles?" I was metaphorically bound up in plasters and, through self-coerced ignorance, 'out for a jog' that just seemed to keep going one step at a time.

And there were a lot of steps. 100,000 or more I should think. They took me through some very familiar trails, twists, ups and downs and through some of the most beautiful parts of England. Having ran here twice last year, I was quite familiar. But still I gazed at the lofty views from Denby's vineyard and ran more slowly through the colourful woods carpeted with bluebells and other coloured plants (with names that I'll never care to learn). I even enjoyed the sprawling tapestry of roots in the ground as they cross-crossed my path and caused me to dance between them. All of the trail, apart from those bloody steps, were a delight. Actually the steps weren't even too bad and I even appreciated the fields between the last check point and the finish a little more than I did the previous two times.

What possessed Stuart March to take such a photo?
... And why did I pay for such a photo?
I think that appreciation came mostly from the pace I held in my eagerness to catch-up with Jimmy and Ilsuk 'The-Man-The-Myth-The-Train' Han. You see, I had started with both of them and I had a burning desire to finish it with them too. But it was not to be. I'd failed myself and whilst I have no regrets on my efforts on the run, I was a little gutted to have left myself behind.

Having said that, if I'd have known they would have abandoned me, I'd have hung out with the 'Bazooka!'. Mad, hilarious and all awesome, the Bazooka! was the nick-name I gave to Goska. She gave me the nickname 'Sean Penn' after calling me Nash and Josh and asking 'what's your name, again' 4 times. She was immediately a character I liked and quite literally a barking mad one at that. She ran past Ilsuk with a bark and growled at some sheep. See, character. Tracking towards coming in under the cut-off time of 13 hours, but making it in with a last stellar effort of 10:25, I was happy to get a chance to offer congrats at the finish. She beamed a huge smile, shared a note of congrats and fist-bumped me a goodbye - hope to run with her again sometime!

I pushed Ilsuk and Jimmy out of the way
to be the first to get a photo across the stones
I'm not sure whether it was because I was usually on the heels of Jimmy, but I didn't really get to know anyone else. I was generally quiet and focused with getting on with the run. The heat at times was exhausting and couple it with the hills it all certainly made chat less of a priority. Still, in the opening flatter miles it was nice to chat with Jimmy and Ilsuk, but for their army of fans. It seemed every other corner there were people running or waiting to greet them. Ilsuk himself was of course effortlessly roving and chatting around the conga line keeping up his network of fans and friends. Such a flirt.

I did find some time during the 09:49 I was out there to contemplate both the previous years 50 and 100 events. The NDW 50 had stolen my heart with the heat, the route and the hills, but the 100 had trampled my body for much the same reasons. I was genuinely broken at the end of the NDW 100 miler. But here I was out on the same trails and I asked myself whether I'd do the 100 again. And whilst I didn't out-rightly call it, I think I would. However, I was surprised at my reaction to the question and I felt a genuine pang of in-trepidation about the thought of doing it again. It really was brutal. Which, for me, is cause enough to stand once more at the start some time and see it through.

These are the bacon sarnies you've been looking for
It's of course not a Centurion event without mentioning the volunteers. Splendid people who not only are really helpful in getting you topped up with water, pep-talked to continue or stuffed with food, they're mostly runners themselves and really get why we're out here and pushing ourselves through it. I really must make an effort to volunteer to help - I think if I carry on and do more runs without volunteering I'll be missing one of the biggest, if not the best, parts of the community.

And lastly, whilst ultra distance runners report hallucinations, apparitions and such, it's quite rare they happen so early into an event. But Jimmy caught a photo to prove that this did in fact happen around mile 8 or so. Props to the 'Naval Division' for the offer of the bacon sarnies and the Imperial Fleet for taking the time to make the run even more fun.

Next up for me with Centurion events is the Chiltern Wonderland.

Pleased with another NDW50 finish

Garmin trace and data of the North Downs Way 50.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

What size is the Syntace X12 axle O ring?

This is a question I'd asked myself when I found my X12 Syntace O ring ripped in half during a recent service. Disappointingly, the O ring had only lasted 9 months and I hadn't removed my wheel all that much during that time. With little doubt that I'd need to replace it again in 9 months, I thought it best to get a few spares in.

Unfortunately, Google was of no help and whilst I had found forum posts of people who had found replacement O rings, no one had bothered to share the size. Syntace certainly didn't offer much in the way of information on their own design and I didn't want to buy a complete new axle for the sake of something that should cost in the region of £0.30.

Finding the one ring to rule them all

O rings are measured with an internal diameter (the hole), outside diameter (the distance between two opposite outside points) and then finally the cross section (the thickness of the ring). With a ruler I took a rough measuring of the old O ring and ordered a selection of similar sizes, in different materials, from Polymax to then compare them to the original.

Different qualities of O ring

It's worth noting that there are different materials for O rings which offer different properties. The closest feel to the original was Nitrile, but in the end I opted for EDPM O rings as they are hardier in the natural elements; perfect for UK weather. And now that I have the right size, I can easily order new O rings as needed.

The Syntace X12 O ring size has an outside diameter of 17 mm, internal diameter of 12 mm and then a cross section of 2.5 mm.

The EDPM O rings, which I could only find in British standard sizing, ended up being slightly larger, we're talking 0.12 mm, and still fitted just fine.

Want a Syntace X12 O ring for free?

Contact Syntace direct and they'll send you some in the post, for free! Neat. You may need to explain why you need replacements, I explained how they fell apart within 9 months, but they were posted quickly and with a minimal of fuss.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

6 things not to do before running an ultra

Inspired by running coach, Justin Bateman's rather sensible 6 things to do in the week before an ultra-marathon, I thought I'd have a crack at the 6 things not to do before an ultra-marathon.

1. Report in to begin your training regime

Reporting for training duty
It's ill-advised to begin your training programme shortly before you run an ultra. In fact, it's ill-advised you start any long distance race without considered and proper training. Why? Well for example, the training for one of my longest runs, The Ridgeway Challenge, 2014, started a month before the event. And as you'd expect, it nearly sucked and was much harder than had I put in the proper training. I wouldn't recommend it.

Take-away: It's best to build up to an event

2. Dress to impress

Gucci shoes will cause your heels
and toes to explode
Whilst those cool new shoes that totally match your outfit, and clearly set you apart from those oh-so-last-season runners on the start line, the new un-bedded shoes will in fact make you quite uncomfortable and cause skin to burst into spontaneous flame. Again, I've done this. You are advised not to.

Take-away: Wear what's comfortable and familiar

3. Forget helpful info from your recce run

The skin-shredding shoes from point number 2 were purchased because I found when running around where I live, shortly before an event, I was slipping and sliding on saturated wet mud and feared that would be the same case along the route in the ultra. If I had spent another 20 seconds thinking about it, I probably would have remembered that when I recce'd the route, not but a few weeks before, I would have recalled that there wasn't much mud on the well drained course and I would have been fine in my regular and most comfortable shoes.

Take-away: Think about the ground conditions where the race is held

4. Have a massive breakfast

I ran a marathon a few years back, and being new to the sport and not being fully aware of pre-race nutrition (I'm still none-the-wiser), I had a fry-up. Who wouldn't? Anyway, I felt great all the way to the start line and from then on it was an uncomfortable race to the finish, medal and a toilet. Big breakfasts don't help on a long run and neither do greasy ones. So don't do either or worse, combine them. Again, like I did.

Take-away: Poop weighs a lot and makes running uncomfortable

5. Dress to impress even more

Yes yes, OK, I clearly have issues with self-image, but this one is just as important. Dressing in the right gear is obviously a sensible thing, but do make sure you agree with yourself that 'sensible' is something that a) you've used before and b) are comfortable in come rain or shine. I didn't, and adorned in my shiny (and snug) new shorts I managed to chafe my derrière over the course of 50 miles. So much so that I couldn't sit properly for a few weeks. Please stop laughing at me. Unless you enjoy frequently applying cold cream to your buttocks or enjoy awkwardly perching on a train seat with the use of only the one 'good buttock', then I wouldn't repeat what I did.

Take-away: Always have a good supply of Aloe Vera at home or
preferably wear comfortable and familiar clothing

6. Pack for luxury

Running an ultra is a difficult experience, so there's no need to make it any harder than it needs to be. That's why I pack 12 rolls of Andrew Triple Velvet (in Peach) and a hot towel. Because I'm worth it. Well no, I'm not that silly, but I do remember packing no less than 5 separate water-proofed collections of wet wipes for one race. In the end I used none, but I still carried the weight, and the weight of all the other critical just-in-case items, the whole way.

Take-away: Pack for what you think you will
need and then halve it

Common sense

I couldn't agree with you more, dear reader. All of the above take-away points are obviously common sense. But it's our irrational human fears or over excitement that can so easily fog our logic, which then of course mires our ability to make sensible decisions in the weeks leading up to a big event. It happens to me even before I book the event. I could be a lost cause.

So I'll leave you with a final key take-away which may help, and it's one I've learnt the hard way, that you should remember what works on your good runs and try and emulate the conditions, the kit and the preparation for your next event. Don't let fear, excitement or what-if concerns influence you to make decisions that ultimately could hinder your event or worse, your health.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Replacement headset for Cannondale Trail SL

I have a Cannondale Trail SL Single speed (2013) and the headset has died. It died because I was impatient during a fork upgrade and mangled it, but that's beside the point.

The good news is that it's easy to replace the headset and you even have some choices on manufacturer as well.

Firstly, if you are coming to replace your headset in your Cannondale Trail SL, then you'll need to verify the dimensions of your head tube and seek a suitable replacement.

Dimensions of the Cannondale Trail SL head tube

There's a lot of information out there on the web about the different sized Cannondale head tube diameters. This was mostly from the old world of the Headshox and the early Lefty's. Now, most of the Cannondales, including the very latest Lefty's, use a standard 1.5 steerer tube.

You'll find that the diameter of the head tube is 49.6mm for both the top and the bottom. If you have a frame other than the Trail SL, then I can't be sure it won't be the same measurements, but a good bike shop should be able to remove the headset and confirm the diameter.

Replacing like for like

If you are using a Trail SL frame with a 1.5 straight steerer tube fork, then it's 99% likely that you are using the Cannondale KP191 headset. That's their standard go-to headset.

If you're using a tapered fork, then you're probably using a combination of the Cannondale KP191 for the lower cup and bearing and a Cannondale HD232 for the top. Cannondale don't offer just a tapered option.

Both of these are readily available and priced reasonably too.

However, now that you know the size, you can choose other non-Cannondale brands to satiate the brand-lover in you.

What type of headset is it?

There are three types of headset, IS (Integrated System), EC (External Cup) and ZS (Zero Stack).
  • Integrated headsets have the bearing cups pre-built into the head tube. You simply drop the bearings in and you're away (This isn't the Cannondale Trail SL).
  • External cup headsets are pressed into the frame (commonly also known as press-fit headsets) and the bearings sit outside of the frame.
  • Zero stack headsets are the half-way house. They are pressed into the frame and the bearing is generally within the frame too.
They are accompanied by four numbers.
  • The first number is the internal diameter of the top of the head tube
  • The second number the external diameter of the stem clamp area
  • The third, the internal diameter of the bottom of the head tube
  • The fourth the external diameter of the fork crown race
Put together, and using the Cannondale Trail SL headset with a 1.5 straight fork as an example, the headset designation would be:
  • ZS49/30 EC49/40
Simple, right?

Chris King and Cane Creek headsets for a Cannondale Trail SL 1.5' head tube

Chris King
If, like me, you want a 'King' headset on your bike, then you'll need to choose either one of these headsets depending on the fork you have:
Cane Creek
Whilst probably the better headset and they have a great following, Cane Creek headsets are simply just not as lust-worthy. Still, if function over form is your preference, then go for the 40 series. Handily, they also include the designation / sizing in the name of the product:
  • 1.5 straight fork - 40.EC49
  • 1.5 to 1 1/8 Tapered fork - Tapered ZS49 | EC49/40
  • 1 1/8 straight fork - Tapered Conversion ZS49 | EC49/30
I personally went for the Chris King and ordered a InSet 5 to go on my trail and to match up with my tapered Reba. Fitting took minutes and it's fantastic. Couldn't be happier.

Hope this helps someone. Do ask any questions about the Cannondale Trail SL, Chris King headsets or headsets in general below.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

South Downs Way 50 2016 race report

I remember this corner with that odd tight turn just before the tree and the soggy mud just after. It's where Justin "Jimmy" Bateman reminded me to have a salt tablet. I remember that left turn, because I took a 'pit-stop' there. I remember this hill and that one. I was waiting for that communications tower. The pigs don't smell any better, but they seem to be on both sides of the trail now. Huh, I saw a mountain bike in the exact same spot last time. There's more sun now, but I still didn't stop for that ice cream I once promised myself. I walked this hill reluctantly, but less so now. And the hatred I felt for the final miles has lifted with a higher pace.

The distances of the SDW50 are hard to explain to others

I've only run the Centurion South Downs Way 50 once before

But it felt like I was running my regular trails. I knew what was in store and I looked forward to the ups and downs. I acceptingly slogged the never-ending ridges between the numerous gates and counted down the steps to the friendly aid-stations. I fondly recalled where I stubbed my toe in 2014 and where I found a second wind and ran like a child.

I felt no fear or trepidation at the start, this was just a 50 miler and I'd slog it out come rain or shine. But I hadn't expected the barrage of memories all vivid and as fresh as the day before. What makes an ultra for me isn't the run, the trails or even the exceptional organisation from Centurion, it was, as ever, the people.

I missed Justin on this run

I haven't seen him in a while and I specifically blame him for getting me into ultras. He deserves nothing but all the medals I have. He helped me get through the SDW50, he goaded me into signing up for the Ridgeway ultra and he carried me home on that one too. I'm really looking forward to re-uniting with him on the North Downs Way 50 in May.

I've really got to stop waving my thumb at photographers!

But enough with the soppy

I had one mission today, beat the PB Justin and I set ourselves in 2014. Actually I had two missions, that one was mine, but Ruth, not wanting to be kept hanging around too long, gave me a 10 hour limit before she started driving home. That gave me an extra 10 minutes over on my PB in case I didn't make it. It was going to be tight.

My carefully planned and executed training had me in the best shape of the week and whilst I was able to hold off the inevitable onslaught of the man-the-myth-the-train that is Ilsuk Han, I did keep him at bay until 37km. He passed me like he was on a golfing holiday and wandering to the next lazy driving green. Smooth and calm as ever. He complains, but he's consistent, gets the training in (or so I believe) and he thinks about his approach. And it works well. I look forward to seeing him pass me again at the North Downs Way 50 in May too.

Me and Kuji smashing it

It's a small world at times and none more so than in the ultra community

As Ilsuk was approaching me I met none other than Kojiro 'Kuji' Oshima who I had met previously on the NDW50 and, I believe the 100 too. He's a lovely fella and he seemed in high spirits and happy to see me. As I type I'm beaming a smile at the screen and around the room, but these words of warmth and joy can't quite express how nice it was to see him out there and how no doubt we'll be at the North Downs Way 50…

At some point I also met Cat Simpson. I introduced myself as a friend of Justin's and we chatted for a little while. We passed an 'Andy' she called out to, who seemed to be struggling. Cat and I chatted for a few more minutes before she effortlessly cruised out of view. Good luck to her SDW100 run this year.

Andy. Hmm, I wonder whether that's the fella Justin has run with? Well, he caught up and I again introduced myself as Justin's friend and again we chatted a little while. He was struggling with an injury behind the knee, but he was still clipping along at a fair pace. We wandered into the half way point together. Nice chap, but the knee was a struggle for him. I wished him well and hope to see him, yup you guessed it, at the North Downs Way 50 in May!

There were a lot of other people I met along the route. The odd hello, the short conversation as we passed each other back and forth, up and down. It's really quite pleasant. Everyone in the same situation and, for the most part, enjoying the experience too.

Another thumb!

I'm going to say I was quite impressed with my run

I kept it steady (as best as I could) at the start, there was no mad rush off and I was even considered enough to consciously start walking the hills when it provided a strategic advantage, and not just when it became too much. It was paying off. I felt pretty good around the 40 mile mark and with some (slower than normal) mental arithmetic I wondered whether I might be able to get that PB.

And so, the chase was on. Head down, focused and making the decisions that will see me go faster overall. Walk that hill, track that guy and push hard on the flats. Walk for 30 seconds, recover and let's go again. No walking or slowing until the next gate. Power walk this bit. Get some food in. Remember your salt tablets. Right, we're getting there. It's coming together. Keep it going and we'll get it. OK, get it a bit faster now, oh sod it, go for it. GO FOR IT.

Centurion South Downs Way 50 - Worthing to Eastbourne

By the end I was giving it some real beans

I had big eyes for the finish and one eye was never far from checking the watch either. I could do this, I could feel it. I just needed to dig that little bit harder.

I was flying. Or that's what it felt like. Consistent speed, constant pushing and no let-up. It felt great. Clearly others had the same idea and they were picking up their pace too. I would have gone faster, I think, but for getting stuck behind a queue (how very British. And doubly so that I politely accepted my fate and kept my position). However, once out on the pavement it was go-go-go. I'd realised at this point I was close to the PB. I just needed to keep going and not blow up.

If the finish line had been another mile I may have walked over the line. I was really giving it everything I had. I fully expected to have something left to sprint the infamous running track at the end, but I had nothing. I was already giving everything, and in fact I didn't care. I'd get the PB, I was about to greet my wife and I was hoping that maybe I'd get a glimpse of Ilsuk and Kuji to congratulate them for a job well done. And, I'd collected another awesome SDW50 medal. I couldn't have been more chuffed.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Can you convert a 135 mm Chris King single speed hub to 142? Yes!

142x12mm Rear ISO SS Thru Axle
If, like me, you've spent good money on a Chris King Single Speed rear hub you've probably found that you've been limited to frames with 135mm rear hub spacing.

However, new frames, like the Niner ROS 9 (which is next on my shopping list!) only come in 142 x 12 spacing. Fortunately for us the chaps at Chris King have realised that 142 is now the default premium mountain bike frame spacing and they're now offering a suitable conversion kit.

Beware! There are two conversion kits

There's the original 142 conversion kit, but it's NOT compatible with your 135 spacing Single Speed hub.

How to convert the hub

In time I fully expect to make the upgrade myself and will post a how-to guide, but if it's anything like how easy it is to convert a Chris King front hub, then it should be a straight forward affair.

Hope this helps someone.

How to convert a Chris King SD ISO front hub from 9mm to 15mm

Converting a Chris King 9mm ISO hub to a 15mm hub is very easy. I mean really very easy. It takes less than 5 minutes too.

The tools you'll need

  • Two 5mm allen keys
  • Long 2.5mm allen key (a long allen key will help with bearing adjustment with the wheel on the fork)
  • Some lube / light grease
  • Clean rag

The parts you'll need

  1. Chris King Front Axle 15mm for Small Diameter ISO Disc Hubs
    Product number: PHB324
  2. Chris King Low Profile Adjusting Collar for Small Diameter Front ISO
    Product number: PHB702
NB: These items will not work with the "LD" or Large Diameter ISO hub, which is the 20mm variant of the Chris King ISO hub.

How to remove the 9mm axle from your Chris King ISO hub

  • Put a 5mm allen key in each side of the hub
  • Turn the non-disc side anti-clockwise
    • You may need to put some pressure to get them started (Chris King even recommend to place one allen key in a vice!)
  • Once loose, completely remove the non-disc side cap
  • Firmly grasp the disc side axle (only use your hands) and give it a good pull
  • Once loose, the axle should then pull out quite easily

How to fit the 15mm conversion kit to your Chris King ISO hub

  • Ensure that the hub is clean
  • Apply any new grease/oil/lube to the bearings as needed and ensure they are still moving freely
  • Apply a 10w synthetic oil, Chris King ring drive lube, or as I've done, a regular dry conditions lube to the o'rings on the axle
  • Insert the axle in from the disc side and push all the way through
  • Grease the threads of the axle on the non-disc side and then screw on the bearing adjustment cap
  • Spin finger tight and then back it off 1/16th a turn (a 'smidge' in common parlance)
  • Tighten up the 2.5mm screw
  • Push the end cap on and it should click into place
  • Insert into your fork and tighten as appropriate

Adjusting the bearing

If you've fitted your fork and the bearing is under too much load, i.e. the wheel is not moving as freely as it should, you should back off the bearing adjustment cap.
  • Unscrew the 2.5mm allen key bolt
  • Move the bearing adjustment cap in an anti-clockwise motion another 'smidge'
  • Re-do the bolt and check for play and smooth spinning
  • Repeat until happy

If you've fitted your fork and there is play, i.e. the wheel has a wobble to it, then you need to tighten up the bearing.
  • Unscrew the 2.5mm allen key bolt
  • Move the bearing adjustment cap in a clockwise motion another 'smidge'
  • Re-do the bolt and check for play and smooth spinning
  • Repeat until happy

Hope this helps someone. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section.