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New Year's Resolution

According to my newspaper last weekend, it is about now that most people stop keeping the resolutions they made for the New Year. I don't have that problem because I haven't started doing anything about my New Year's resolution yet! At New Year, I signed up for the Vulkan Bike Eifel Marathon, so my challenge for the year is going be to train for that. And it will be a challenge as well; it is 2 000 height meters in 85 km. The 85 km will not be such an issue, but the height is getting on twice as much as I have ever done in a day before. The profile is quite scary as well:

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Profile VulkaanBike Eifel Marathon

 However, scary as it might be, various people who know more about these things than I do, have told me that it ought to be possible. So, on the random assumption that six months training will be enough, I've drawn up a scheme where every couple of weeks I go a bit further, starting from the 40 km that I normally do with the club on a Saturday and building up to 80-90 km. That's fine for the kilometres, but seeing there isn't a great deal of height meters around here anyway, I'm just going to have to hope that selecting the hillier bits around here will be sufficient, even if I'm not often going to go above the thousand meters. 

The marathon is organised by VulkanBike (named because it is in the volcanic region of the Eifel) and has the advantage of taking place in spectacular scenery, like the view below:

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Daun
Last year about 1600 cyclists took part (over various distances) despite foul weather. Hopefully, the conditions will be a bit better in 2018. Another thing that will be new for me (aside from all those height meters) is that apparently it is supposed to be some sort of a race.  I am heartened by the fact that if I look at the times for last year's even quite a number of people (especially in my age class - almost the oldest!) crawled over the line just before the limit for what counts, so apparently, that's also possible.
Anyway, six weeks to go before I start implementing my New Year's resolution and begin training. Finding some height meters for the kick-off will not be a problem as coincidentally (really!) I have a work trip to Manchester at that time so I am taking a day off mountain biking in the Peak District. I can't wait!

 

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Dog-weather

When the English say that it is raining cats and dogs, the Dutch say it is dog weather (hondenweer). I don't know why, I don't think either cats or dogs like to be out in miserable weather. Unlike mountain bikers (or at last some). But today the sun was shining, it was warmer and there was much less iced water on the ground than a week ago. Nevertheless, that meant it was dog weather. There were more dogs out in the woods today than I've seen for ages. Sometimes dogs in the woods are a bit aggressive, I've been bitten twice in recent years. But today, I think they were so happy to be out after being cooped up inside after the bad weather recently, that there was not even a growl or raised hackle as I cycled past them. Everyone was happy in the woods today. 

 

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Cold!

It snowed last night, and this morning it was round about freezing. Most of the club were sensible enough not to go out in the cold, so it was just me and one other mountain biker this morning. I put a couple of extra layers on and thought that would be enough, but that turned out not be quite right. Not only was it snowy, the ground was also very swampy, I guess because it was either frozen or saturated lower down. To make matters worse, the snow acted as camouflage for a number of quite deep puddles. So that meant that, on several occasions, my foot went down into a lovely mixture of water/snow/ice, deeper than the top of my boot, allowing icy water to seep in around my feet. Add to that a spray of damp snow from my back wheel onto my backside and I was very forcibly reminded of just how much colder damp snow at zero feels than much lower temperatures. My wife made it clear to me before I set off that she thought I was insane going out in such weather, so was she right? Well, maybe a little, but it was incredibly beautiful despite the cold, with the fresh snow lying everywhere, the snow gave some extra technical challenges and yes, despite the cold it was well worth it.

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Back to the future

I had been looking forward to the Veluwe Challenge for the past few weeks, with the steep and slippery slopes of the Goudsberg as its high point. However, that was not to be as, on Tuesday, I pulled a muscle in my back by simply getting out of a chair after a meeting. It is also possible that then running for the train was not the smartest thing to do, but it was clear that cycling a Challenge would be considerably less smart. Nevertheless, sitting around all day was probably also not what the back would want, so in the afternoon I went for a short ride in the woods. The leaves are beginning to change colour, especially of the Birches and American Oak and there was plenty of blue sky and sunshine, so it was all quite spectacular. And amazingly, my back did indeed feel much better by the time I got back.

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Zeddam

Yesterday we cycled the Montferland route (officially 'Zeddam') and it was glorious. We arrived in dense fog and for a few minutes, I wondered if it was going to be miserable but the sun soon came out and it was perfect. Not too hot or too cold and just enough moisture in the air to make the sun rays through the trees spectacular. The trail has over 400 height meters in its 25 km length, which means that it is one of the hilliest in the neighbourhood (readers of this blog who think that mountain biking is something you do in mountains can stop laughing) and slopes of up to 15 degrees, so it certainly felt different compared to the virtually horizontal areas round Wageningen. The woods there are also much more diverse with a richer understory of herbaceous plants and some lovely moss-coated areas. And to cap it all, we finished with coffee and apple tart. What more could you want?

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Autumn already

Saturday morning dawned, and the excuses started coming in. It was too wet for the new bike, it was too wet for the injured hand, it was too wet. Those were the sensible ones. In the end, only three of us turned up and that was a problem. Not because of the small group, but because it meant that we combined two of us from our normal slow group with one from the fast group.  Maybe I could have kept up better, but the torrential rain of the last days not only meant that we got rather muddy (see the photo for proof!) but that the sand turned into some sort of evil glue, sticking to our tyres and clawing us back. With that to contend with, it was all I could do to plod along, let alone keep up with someone used to going considerably faster. But it wasn't all torture.  The rain stopped, the sun came out and a group of three wild boar sat close to the track, apparently as amazed to see us ploughing through the mud, as we were delighted to see them. 

Muddy legs

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