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Back on the Horse.

Off the horse; two flat tyres at Antur Stiniog Downhill park in Wales.
A few weeks before Christmas I was out and about enjoying a training run, and I do actually enjoy them, when I came a bit of a cropper! Firstly whilst running through the woods in the dark, with a head-torch to guide me, I stubbed my toe on a lump of rock on the trail and made like Superman, flying full length down the hill on to my face! I grumbled and swore, dusted myself off, and quickly had a look around to make sure no one saw me, obviously; before carrying on down the path. A very short distance later, and still cursing my throbbing toe, I turned heavily on my ankle in a rut in the path. It was so hard an impact that I not only felt it crunch under my weight but even heard it. Ouch. I was buggered. I had to hobble/jog the three miles back home before I could get a bag of frozen sweetcorn on it to try and reduce the swelling. One of my highly amusing friends, who really should be a comedian, suggested that frozen peas are far more effective and that’s where I went wrong. Thanks for that sage piece of wisdom Phil, I’ll try it next time.

And so, five weeks later, I’m back on the trails. I really could have done without the enforced break so close to The Yak Attack. I have managed to ride my bike a few times, and been able to swim a little, but certainly not enough.
Yesterday I took the wise decision to go out on a long-slow-distance run, looking to plod along steadily for about an hour and a half. I managed a to do just over ten miles (16.4km) which was pleasing. The last ten minutes or so were murder though and my muscles were screaming; perhaps ten miles after a five week break wasn’t my brightest idea. An ice bath will do the job, I thought to myself; brilliant! Ten minutes of submersion and I couldn’t feel my feet, was in danger of developing hypothermia, and was shaking like a rabid dog. And it didn’t really help much either!
Today I took off to the pool, hoping that a swim might help shake some of the lactic acid out my legs; It didn’t. But I did enjoy it and cruised to a steady 130 lengths (3.25km) before my fingers started to ache. A few more visits and I should build up the tolerance to do 160 lengths again regularly. I wasn’t much of a fan of swimming when I first started using it as part of my training regime but I enjoy it now and it’s a lot easier on the muscles than running.
Whenever I run long distances I find that my mind wanders all over the place and it was whilst I was out yesterday that I was reminded of a ride I did during the Spring. (I can laugh about it now!). 
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To say that the British Spring was wet could well be the understatement of the year! Old Noah would’ve been sharpening his tenon saw had it carried on much longer; and I’d had wet feet so many times when out riding that I was in danger of contracting Trench Foot!
One particularly day in late June I was peering out of the window at work and marvelling at an unusually pleasant afternoon. “Bugger going swimming” I thought to myself, “I’m going to risk it and go out for a spin on the bike”.
And so I did. And it all started oh so well. I was badly in need of a couple of long, steady, training rides to help me prepare for the upcoming Sleepless in the Saddle 24 hour race. I decided to head up to the High Peak Trail and bash out some consistent mileage. It’s a lovely ride of 35 or so miles, out and back. I parked the car at the side of the Cromford Canal at Whatstandwell and set off along the towpath towards High Peak Junction, getting splashed a lot by all the ever present puddles of water. At High Peak Junction I turned left, picked up the start of The High Peak Trail, and started the long, 2.5 miles, climb up to Middleton Top. It’s a decent climb and soon had me out of puff. About halfway up it levels out for a while, past Black Rock, before steepening sharply once more up a 1 in 8 incline to the summit. I passed through the gate at the top and along past the old engine house before continuing on along the relatively flat ridge, picking up the pace to a steady 27-28km/h. I bashed along happily with the intention of keeping a steady tempo all the way to Parsley Hay and then back again. About 10 miles along the trail it began to rain steadily, I was already wet from all the standing water so I decided just to carry on regardless. Unfortunately the rain increased progressively and by the time I arrived at Parsley Hay I was absolutely soaked; not only that but I was also covered, head to foot, in a horrible slimy limestone clag! I reflected on my inspiring decision to carry on 😀
After a brief stop I remounted and started the return leg, before the cold started to set in, feeling particularly sorry for myself! I pushed a little harder just to try and keep warm. About a mile past Minninglow and about 10 miles from the car the bike started to feel a bit weird. I stopped and gave a tug at the front wheel; nothing amiss there. “Strange” I thought to myself before pedalling on. “Nope, something isn’t right” I looked down and noticed that my rear tyre was almost flat, “Bollocks”. I pushed the bike underneath the shelter of a nearby tree and took off my pack. At the same moment I remembered where my pump was; on the bloody kitchen table at home! I sighed at the realisation. I had put some air in the tyres before leaving home and forgotten to put it back in to my pack. Pissing down with rain and 10 miles from the car I pondered my predicament. Who should I ring for help? My Mum was down on the Isle of Wight visiting my Sister, and my Dad was up in Edinburgh, Scotland. Opposite ends of the country from me. I chanced my luck and called my brother; luckily he was home and kindly agreed to pop out and pick me up. What a relief that was, had I had to walk back to the car I wouldn’t have got home until a ridiculous hour. I guessed at my approximate location before suggesting a pick-up point. I then shouldered the bike and set off hiking, reckoning that the nearest access to a road was a couple of miles away. At least it was good hike-a-bike practice for next years Yak Attack mountain bike race in Nepal.
And so about 45 minutes later, more by luck than judgement, we managed to stumble across each other in the village of Longcliffe, just as the light was starting to fade. Mark dropped me off back at the car and I peeled off my filthy, sodden clothes and stashed them into a plastic bag before driving off home home; vowing not to go out on my bike again until the sun shone properly!
My mate Mitchell asked me if I was free to ride later that week and I turned him down flat! “Not until the sun shines and the trails are dry” I cried. He laughed.

Enjoying a sea view at lunch; dusty trails & glorious sunshine. Nant-Y-Arian.

And then the sun began to shine. And I had a long weekend off right in the middle of it! Yeehaw. My son Dan and I headed off to North Wales to stay with my fellow Yak Attack rider Cefin Evans at his beautifully located farmhouse near Aberystwyth. We rode dusty trails in bright sunshine, and it was glorious!

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On a completely different note I have decided to try and help sponsor a local Nepali rider for this years North face-Yak Attack. You may not be aware of this but the The Yak Attack is a non-profit making event that helps to fund the Nepali mountain bikers and local communities in The Annapurna Conservation Area Project.
Local riders benefit from “at-cost” entry fee’s. The average monthly wage in Nepal is US$70 (that’s about £50) and the cost for them is US$400, about £250 (£1795 for international entrants),so you see the problem. On top of this it costs about another US$400 in expenses. Five riders have gained qualification through racing in The Trans-Nepal Stage Race which entitles then to waived entry fee’s. To support one of these riders I am asking ten people to pledge £25 (including myself) which will enable us to achieve it. Full sponsorship of a rider is US$800. I have already received four pledges from generous benefactors and now only need five more. It would be even better if I could raise enough for a full sponsorship! If any of you would like to help out please contact me via our Facebook or Twitter pages. You will also have the added excitement of cheering on your own rider during the race! Instead of just booing me!
My sincerest thanks go out to Paul Crooks, David Whewell, Keith Harrison, and our own Dave Slater for their selfless offers of support. Thank you guys it will be very much appreciated by whichever rider we are allocated.
If any of you are interested in sponsoring a rider yourselves or would just like to see what Yak Attack are trying to achieve with the local Nepali riders take a look here: Yak Attack is seeking sponsorship.
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I was contacted recently by a travel insurance company called DOGTAG who asked me if I would be interested in writing a piece on The Yak Attack for their dedicated adventure blog. I was very happy to oblige; anything that helps to highlight the great work being done by Phil Evans at Yak Attack or gets people interested visiting Nepal can only be a good thing.
I originally wrote it as one piece but Dogtag asked me to reduce it down a bit (you know how I can blather on sometimes!) so I split it into two separate posts.
If you would like to read them you can click on the links below:
When I get the chance I will upload the full version on to here so that you can read it in its original form.
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Dan enjoying the dusty trails at last!

One of the views from Cefins farm

About The Author

Neil Cottam

Neil is the founder of Chase The Rainbow. He has spent a lifetime exploring the outdoors, from a childhood climbing trees and scrambling his bike around old pit heads to hiking in the Himalaya and backpacking around Europe and Asia.

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