Cheshire Cat 2013 Sportive

Well here is my number for 2013's edition of the Cheshire Cat sportive. It'll be my 5th attempt at the Cheshire Cat, my first attempt being when it used to start from Knutsford High School with orange squash and biscuits for refreshment!

If you've entered you are in for a treat, it's a great sportive, spot on for early season miles. The route is pretty flat with only 30 miles up in the hills. Feed stops are quality and the start and finish is really nice too.

For those not local, you'll be whizzing through stunning Cheshire villages such as Goostrey and Holmes Chapel. Beware: the roads are totally battered down here, Flanders looked better after World War 1 so it would be good advice to keep your wits about you.

Mow Cop

Much is said about Mow Cop. Believe the hype as it is a tough climb. Not many, if any, club runs venture up it. As soon as you cross the railway crossing you're climbing. The toughest bit is the final 200m which is 25%. Here are my tips to cope with the 'Cop.

1. Start nice and slow. As with any climbing, keep to your own tempo. Don't get carried away. Loads of people bomb up the first bit and get caught out. Keep your heart rate as controlled as possible.

2. It gets really steep about 1/4 the way up. You'll start climbing and the road will go right and swirl round back to the left. Here it is pretty steep. You'll be out of the saddle and wheels may slip at the back. After here you need to back off and recover.

3. Keep it easy. Leading up to the final 200m it is pretty straight but it is quite steep. Keep your tempo and keep it steady. Focus.

4. Go for it up the steep stuff. Just before it ramps up it flattens slightly, recover, take a deep breath and slam yourself up it. Get on the drops, dig deep and sprint up it. Just dig and dig and dig.

This video shows it off very nicely

You can read my reviews of previous Cheshire Cats from 2012, 2011 and 2010 here.

Llanberis 2013

Reaching the top of Llanberis Pass on Sunday
Photo: Lyndsey Astles
At the end of every February it is the Weaver Valley CC training weekend to Llanberis. Legendary in status, it sees 60 riders travel across 185 miles over two days, climbing over 11,000ft with climbs including the Sportsman on Saturday from Ruthin and Llanberis Pass on the Sunday morning to get you going from the hotel.

Last year I completed all but 20 miles of the route and this year I was determined to complete it all. And I did. It felt amazing to complete it and importantly I felt good the whole way round. I had another bike fit at the start of February which saw my stem being lowered further thanks to the core work and weight loss, and that helped a great deal. Again if you haven't, I would highly recommend visiting Richard at Pedal Precision, it is the best £150 you'll ever spend.

Snow on the Sportsman.
Photo: Elaine Mossman
Conditions were tricky, the temperature didn't head over 4 degrees all weekend . We even encountered snow for 20 miles climbing the Sportsman until we got to Betws-y-Coed and then again going back through the forest to Ruthin the following day. I'll never forget the 8 of us, lined out, descending down the Sportsman at over 40mph in the snow. It was brilliant. Proper Band of Brothers style.

I enjoyed pretty much the whole ride, the worst part was going from Betws-y-Coed back to Ruthin on Sunday. It was tough going, relentless and the legs were feeling it a bit. Strangely they came around after the cafe stop and I felt great all the way home. I mustn't have eaten enough.

Band of Brothers on the
Photo: Elaine Mossman
I was climbing well (granted not as good as 80% of those completing the ride who whizzed past like I was stood still). I seemed to have more spark in the legs this year and more importantly my heart rate was both lower and faster to recover than last year. This made a huge difference when climbing. Where I was at around 180bpm on every climb last year, this year I was sat in around 160-170bpm. I'm putting that down to losing weight, more training and more experience I think.


Training started back in November as always. I started with a good base from a busy summer of club runs and time trials. I had put on some weight during October but coming in at 88kg wasn't too bad considering the year before I was around 93kg.

The most important part I think was joining a gym over the Winter months. My brother Chris also devised a plan to improve my core strength which included Palov presses and the dreaded plank. I also introduced leg presses alongside glute and hamstring work which has worked really well. When climbing I really noticed how the weight work had helped. I had the same feeling in the steep parts of the climbs as I did in those last 5 presses in that final set of 4.

Stunning scenery on a snowy
Sunday morning in Llanberis.
I joined The Works in Northwich which has been a great gym for me. This turned out to be a great move because not only was I getting 2 good sessions in during the week but there were quite a few weekends where it was too bad to go out. When things were going tough on the run to Llanberis I just reminded myself of the hours spent sat on the turbo in the gym doing intervals. I remember a couple of mornings during December when it was just me in the freezing cold gym while people recovered with their hangovers!

When I could go out on the bike (which at times seemed to be a treat!) I upped the mileage. I did 50 mile non stop runs on my own on a Saturday which was good as I had the wind resistance to really test the legs. I also included a couple of hills like the Wizard in Alderley Edge. I then did the club run on the Sunday.

The toughest part was watching what I ate over Christmas. After Boxing Day I cut out the beer and after New Years Day I cut out the crap. No cheese, bread, beer, snacks or treats (so no eating out, no pizza), just stripping right back to good foods and smaller portions.

All in all I headed into Llanberis at 84kg. That still isn't light compared to many of my club colleagues but in perspective it is 4kg lighter than my weight starting Llanberis in 2012.

It took a lot of effort but it was worthwhile. I couldn't have done it without Becky. She had to suffer because of me, eating the same "boring" foods and putting up with me while I was out on the bike. I was focused and her support was fantastic.

Facebook Graph Search

You can edit Search Engine visibility settings in Facebook.
Be prepared for another round of upset as people learn more about Facebook's proposed Graph Search. It's currently in beta but is on it's way. In short it is a search engine based within Facebook where say if you typed in "Trafford Centre Cinema" into Graph Search it will drag in all your friends results who have been there, what they thought, said and did there. There is talk it will work wider away from your friends network too. So, for example, if you get tagged in a drunken stupor at your favourite local bar, those photos of you drooling in the background will be dragged into that search. In effect Facebook is going to be making much better use of your content.

Before we go any further let's get one thing clear. Nothing has changed. Facebook is using the data you have posted and approved. Facebook is free. You don't pay a penny to upload your photos, videos and share your life stories. All content is self uploaded either by you or your friends. You have control over it, you can remove any stories or tags. If you don't like what Facebook is doing then get out and close down your account.

Graph Search is designed to allow you to quickly and easily find new experiences. We share so much data today, (in fact 300 billion photos and nearly 3 billion Likes everyday) that it all can become lost. The amount of data we're sharing is increasing too (Zuckerberg's Law says the amount of data we consume and share will double every two year's, much like Moore's Law on hardware). Graph Search will become useful in that all this data will be easily searchable. And yes us marketeers will also see the benefits. The question is, would you rather have marketing pushed to you as being relevant or irrelevant? If you like bikes, do you want ads on cheap viagra and prostitutes or information on new bikes, teams and races etc?

If you're worried you can make some changes to help.

If you are worried about you're data being shared make sure you spend some time running through Facebook's privacy settings. I like my Facebook to remain informal unlike my Twitter, LinkedIn & Google+ account so I've spend some time reviewing.

Make sure you do review and read the warnings. The amount of people who get really angry about "Facebook using my data" and then "can't be bothered" to spend the time to review their privacy is amazing.

In privacy settings you can review who can see your data and what data is published to whom. I'd pay close attention to the "search engine visibility" setting (see the image at the top of this blog).

I would also have a look at the 'Limit Past Posts' option if you're really anxious that those pictures of you in Kavos in 2005 aren't shared away from your friends.

Limit Past Posts - if you're anxious about old material