Trans-Cambrian Way bike packin

Standing on the side of a hill in the middle of the mid-Wales countryside a few miles from the nearest village let alone town looking at my brothers buckled front wheel I was beginning to question whether this whole ‘going on an adventure’ idea was really such a good one. We were only 25km into 160km of mountain bike riding over 2 days and already considering what the best exit plan was.

Adventure planning

We’ve both found ourselves becoming more interested in planning bike packing trips and adventures than races and so when I heard about the Trans-Cambrian way it immediately jumped to the top of the to do list. 100 miles of mostly trail across the wild Cambrian mountains in mid-Wales crossing the whole width of Wales in the process from the English border near Shrewsbury and ending up at the sea just north of Aberystwyth. An inspiring route crossing some wild and fairly remote terrain with not much in the way of civilisation for refuelling (or repairing bikes for that matter!)

Waiting for the train and the adventure to start
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My first bike

Before I was a runner, triathlete, ultra runner and any other category I might put myself in, before I entered any race or even contemplated the idea of a training plan, I was a mountain biker. I can remember going with my dad to the bike shop to get my first mountain bike aged 13, it was a glorious aluminium framed rigid (of course this was the 90’s) Giant with 18 gears and shiny silver bar ends (remember them?!). It was bright yellow, team Giant colour scheme I believe and I thought it was awesome.

Growing up in the quiet Oxfordshire countryside this bike gave me freedom, the chance to explore with mates or ride to the local river to go fishing. We’d ride through the forest to the bomb drops and see if anyone was brave enough to face near certain death trying to drop in on one of the slopes. Faces in awe as a ‘proper’ mountain biker rode through and smashed through the jumps.

Sonder Frontier
Back from another muddy adventure in the glorious Welsh woods
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Like the Wind magazine giveaway

Ever since the first issue of Like the Wind magazine was released I’ve had in the back of my mind a goal to have an article published in it. If you’ve not come across the Like the Wind before it’s an independent magazine containing articles and illustrations that the authors/artists contribute free of charge. The magazine has stories written by runners about running; the races they’ve done, the reason they run or simply about the running they do. The ethos of the magazine aligns perfectly with my approach to running and what I enjoy writing about. But as ever with these things you need to make the time to sit and actually have a go at writing something.

Earlier this year I found myself on a long haul flight to Canada for work and decided to see if I could get down in words the idea that had been floating around my head for a little while. Fuelled by the lack of distraction a plane provides and a glass of red wine (the ideas always flow a little easier with some lubrication) I put finger to keyboard and the end result can be read on p26 of issue 20 of Like the Wind magazine! I shan’t spoil the story but will tell you that the article is about my ‘why’.

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St Illtyd’s ultra race review

I’m not sure about you but I tend to enter races that capture my imagination. There can be many reasons why a race grabs me; a beautiful route, a unique challenge, great reviews, to compete with friends, perhaps no obvious reason at all, but there does need to be a motivation to take part, some sort of why. I don’t race for the sake of racing or for that matter enter many races at all.

St Illtyd’s ultra definitely grabbed me, there was a real buzz on social media after last years race with lots of those I follow on Instagram and Twitter having taking part and raving about it. Throw in the fact that the race start/finish was less than an hour from where we were moving to in Wales and would be a nice intro back into some longer trail races and I found myself clicking the enter button.

Event overview

The race concept is relatively simple, start next to Burry Port harbour just outside Llanelli, pick up the St Illtyd’s way just outside town and follow it for 25km. Turn around at half way and retrace your steps. Simple. The first/last 5km is super flat along a cycle path, the 40km in between however has 1200m of climbing, plenty to punish those who run the first half too fast.

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Getting a coach

I did something radical in November, something that I thought I’d never do because I just didn’t need to. I got a coach. Even now it feels a little odd saying that, after all I’m a qualified coach myself with plenty of experience, so why do I need a coach? Well let me explain.

I’m not one for cheesy motivational quotes or sharing inspirational words on Instagram but I do have a few personal mantras to help guide me through this crazy world and the following is in the top 3 – “stupidity is doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result”. Last summer I found myself writing weekly training plans and then consistently struggling to complete even 50% of the plan. Not because I physically couldn’t, but rather I wasn’t able to hold myself to account as I had in the past to be disciplined in getting the sessions done.

With this on my doorstep I wanted to be fit enough again to be able to go on adventures
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