First time rider in 2010 Paul Masson is making a lengthy trip down from Aviemore to the Dales for the Three Peaks. Paul’s a MTB trail designer, with some amazing experience in off-road cycling, so to ride a special event like this after a few years out of competition seems to have him really fired up (on Twitter – his prolific and regular tweets about his training are great inspiration – follow him at twitter.com/aviemoron

After a break from racing for the last several years, I once again felt the urge to pin on a race number and therefore started looking at the race calendar for something suitable in the Autumn, giving me the “summer” to get back up to speed (having not ridden all winter due to snow cover). There were a number of these new fangled “sportives” locally, but they’re not races – are they? Road races and mtb races were highlighted and planned for, but there was still something lacking, a proper challenge……. Not yet mad enough to do a 24hr solo and too late for the Keilder 100 I saw a link for the 3 Peaks cyclo-cross race, “now that sounds more like it” I thought.

I already had a cross bike, having used a Kona “Jake the Snake” for several winters as a training bike, but after researching on the 3 Peaks website and blog I quickly realised that taking off the mudguards and fitting cross tyres was not going to suffice! Oh, and the fact it had a “roadie” drivetrain of 53/39 and 12-27!

So after trying various “bodges” using old mtb drivetrains lying around the garage and more web research I plumped for a SRAM system of Force STI’s, compact chainset, Apex rear mech’ and 11-32 cassette. Once I slapped this lot on it became my new most ridden bike, with my lovely full sus’ 29er Santa Cruz left languishing in the garage. After many evenings spent pouring over any 3 Peaks information I could find I realised that this was “a hell of a race” I had stumbled across, with a rich history behind it and a legendary status in the cross world. Oops. Time to get serious.

Ok, training, I like training, but I’m self employed, as is my wife, we’ve got two pre-school boys, no local family and time is soooo precious. But, through very early starts and riding home from weekend family outings I reckoned I could squeeze 1 x 3hr ride a week, 1 x 2hr ride and 2 x 1hr rides, with maybe a couple of 45 min’ runs into a week. That’s 7 or sometimes 8 hrs a week to play with.

I’ve set a couple of goals on the way to the “big” day, a road race, an mtb race and get down to my old racing weight of 69 kgs. The road race was trained for and done, a good hard day with me just attacking everywhere – just for the training – then sitting in ’til the finish, great fun and the first outing for my “newly” shaved legs. Next, the mtb race, a wee bit more stress and pain, as I used to be “alright” and therefore had a lot of mental pressure to do well again – and it was on a local course which was really “techy” i.e. my sort of race. For this the cx bike got ignored for a couple of weeks and I focused exclusively on short hard climbs quickly followed by steep and technical descents. Boy was I gripped the night before! Several years since my last mtb race, it was really praying on my mind, glad I was in alone babysitting – don’t think I would have been good company! Anyhow, all went well with a third, more importantly I really enjoyed it and if time permits next year I’d like to do more of the sxc series (well, only the techy ones)

Intermediate goals achieved, the last 4 weeks to the race have been a ramping up of the efforts; with a mixture of repeated long slogging 30 minute seated climbs, short hard faster steep climbs, road speed work, running and the most painful one (due to a badly healed collarbone) repeated hill intervals whilst carrying the bike – ouch, but I refuse to use pipe lagging.Yet. But, being unsupported, I might end up using a lightweight Camelbak which, with a bit of a shoulder strap, might help cushion that area. The only kit issue to sort out is tyres, with the Conti’ Speed Kings I’ve been using probably being ditched in favour of the forums favourites, the Schwalbe Landcruisers.

Well, into the final (hard) week now and I intend to train every day with a mixture of hard, easy, harder, easy, harder again sessions, then an easy weekend of whatever can be squeezed in, some hill walking perhaps, then taper down ’til race day.

Oh and through cutting out post ride cakes, cheese (I love cheese) and evening snacks the weight is now down to fighting weight, but my wife thinks I look terrible and “haggard”, excellent, job done then!

I’ll blog again in the final week….

Thanks Paul – looking forward to it – and hope the haggardness develops more! In the mean time, you can read a bit more about Paul and his CycleTherapy MTB trail design company here.