Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Making Super Simple Bone Broth / Stock

I have been asked so many times about this so finally I'm putting together a video of one of the ways I make bone broth or stock. There is tons of information online about why to consume bone broth (aside from how tasty it makes things) - Weston A Price has some stuff about it, Mark's Daily Apple too, but believe me, it is worth the (very) small amount of effort.

I source the best bones (from animals that ate what they are supposed to and had a hopefully happy life - at least the ones I saw had), usually for free and the rest of the materials are simple to find. Bones, salt, an acid (apple cider vinegar), garlic, ginger, additional spices and veg if you wish.

I have used a pressure cooker, a pot but currently am using a slow cooker (purchase from around €25 and are great for making many things) to cook at a low temperature for a long time safely.

The resultant broth when used making other dishes adds a richness/complexity that is hard to describe and is usually only found in top restaurants - and it is super healthy. When anyone I know has sickness/injuries etc... it is the first thing I ask if they make. Enjoy.

I leave the cooker on high until bubbling then low/medium for the rest of the time.

Monday, June 08, 2015

2015 Beskidy MTB Trophy - Stage 4

Stages four and five (the trip back to Ireland) - I don't know which was more tough! The final stage of the Beskidy MTB Trophy saw us go up and down more steep climbs. Billed as being the most difficult stage, although the climbing was tough I found the descending and technical riding to be easier than the previous days (maybe I have finally left my roadie awkwardness behind) and although it was almost as hot as the previous days my body felt good and the heat didn't bother me.

As the other days, at 9am we rolled out on a few gentle kilometres of tarmac until we hit the real climbing. In the central part of the race they packed in almost 3,000m of climb across 60km so it really was either steep up or steep down. Like the previous day, on the first properly steep and loose section Ben and Torsten gapped me but on the descents I would get back closer. There were a few riders around me for the first hour or two but after I fixed my puncture (the only one I had in the race - an achievement on a hardtail (Thanks Stan’s Valor wheels and Schwalbe tires)!) I started to make progress to the boys ahead. 

At the base of the longest climb I was five minutes back but by the top I had pulled it back to three - averaging a pretty constant 12% all the way up it was more towards the steepness I liked. After the climb we were treated to some of the most fun descending in the whole race, super fast burmey single track - all the memories of how to pump the ground for free speed came back and I was hop skipping over roots and rocks with them barely touching my tires - I could have done this for ever. 

Like the other days as I got closer to the end I was approaching the front of the race - I got time checks of 1-2 minutes in the remaining kilometres but ran out of road finishing 1:40 behind the two leaders. Enough for 3rd on the stage and 2nd overall on GC (first in GC in my category).

One of the many wide rocky descents

I have raced many places around the world, and on most continents but I have to admit that the last 5 days (including the day before riding around) has been some of the most fun, challenging and beautiful racing I have done. The unseasonably perfect (well, maybe TOO hot) weather just added to it all. 

I wanted to wait until I got back home to Ireland safely before I said this, but from leaving on Tuesday to the race and returning on Sunday it was an almost perfect 5-6 days. Everything from the race organisers, track, general hospitality and our accommodation (http://www.japonica.pl/) could barely be improved. As I sit back getting into a normal work day I really do have post stage race blues.

Thanks for reading and see you at the Sudety MTB Challenge??? 

Saturday, June 06, 2015

2015 Beskidy MTB Trophy Stage 3 - 2nd

Leading on from yesterday's post I am putting a few words together for UK XC News so I figure I'll also post it here about the Beskidy MTB Trophy


I have ridden many stage races, mostly on the road but I never remember feeling this tired after only two days when I woke up (and I have done 10 day UCI road stage races). Not so much the legs - just all over, more a general battering. Very different from the road. Three weeks ago I raced the 3 stage Belgian Mountainbike Challenge and although longer with more climb and a very high level of competition it just doesn’t compare. Both races I rode my hardtail but only in this one I really wish for rear suspension.

First climb of the day
Today was a little shorter then yesterdays stage at 68km but with almost 3,000m of off-road climbing and at times super technical climbing it would be another nail in the coffin. And to add to that, the unusually high temperatures (which has greatly diminished the mud for which this race is known for) upped their game some and creeped into the mid 30s at times. I have raced in South East Asia where temperatures hit the mid 40s but this is different - slogging up a 20% wall using every muscle in your body at 8kmph is a world away from cruising along at 40kmph with wind keeping you cool.

Like the previous day, we had a few rolling kilometers of tarmac until we hit the first off-road climb - from there, it was tough to the finish. I didn’t have the best feeling on the bike and the climbing was a suffer fest for me only split up by the crazy fun descents I have come to expect. At the top of the days major climb Ben and Torsten had a 3 minute gap on me and a few others but by the end of the (how many times must I say crazy, but yeah, crazy) descent I had caught up with Torsten but Ben was still out front. A couple of riders would come and go from the group but as we hit the final set of climbs I pushed on in pursuit of Ben. I went full out on the final climb and finished at the top empty on the finish line - good enough for second on the day but not close to catching Ben.

There was an eight kilometer roll back down to where the car was parked - I don't think I have ever coasted so much in my life - I was cooked, fried, well done. Only a 15 minute soak in a cold river got me back down to normal working temperatures and feeling somewhat human again.

Friday, June 05, 2015

2015 Beskidy Stage Race - Stage 2 - wohoo

Leading on from yesterday's post I am putting a few words together for UK XC News so I figure I'll also post it here:


Another day, another stage - man I love stage racing. Today’s stage was the queen stage of the race and now as I sit on my bed, my legs and lower back feel it. It was a 9am start (we had a 10am start the first day) and seven kilometres of tarmac until we hit the unending steep climbs and descents. We took a pretty sedate pace those first few k and I didn’t see anyone complaining. From there on, for the next hour and a half it was constantly up and down on fireroads, dual track but mostly single track. Groups split and rejoined but as we hit the base of the days main obstacle, a fifteen kilometre long climb there was about twelve of us together. 

If you look at the total length of the climb and the altitude gain (we climb to 1,300m) there was nothing too crazy (10% average) - it was just all those 500m sections of 20%+ gradient that killed me. Obviously, the race split to bits here and Ben and Torsten (1st and 3rd from yesterday) said good bye to me (for a while) and went off ahead. 

They left me (I'm the speck)

As I crested the climb in third, I remembered a section in the road book about the course -  

“ Then a descent that gives all you can wish for: technical singletrack, wide dirt road, and a very (very!) steep downhill with loose rocks, which later turns into gravel road cut by half a meter deep ruts.”

When someone puts an additional ‘very’ in brackets I know something is up (or in this case down) - I believe a DH bike with massive/tough tires would be the usual tool for this type of descent - not a skinny bike with light tires but boy was it fun - skipping, sliding and praying for traction down a 25% single track scree descent - I was happy to make it down in one piece without a scratch on me or my bike.

This was one of the easier sections of the descent
More roley terrain and I eventually caught Ben and Torsten. As we hit the final climb, on the steep section (10%, not the crazy 20% stuff from earlier) I upped the pace and dropped Torsten with only Ben for company. After this - more fun singletrack all the way back down. Ben had a mechanical on the way down and I rolled in for the win - wohoo!

Another beautiful days riding on incredible trails - when I returned for the prize giving four hours after I finished some riders were still trickling in - wow, hats off. It was a super tough day out.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

2015 Beskidy Trophy Stage 1

I am putting a few words together for UK XC News so I figure I'll also post it here:


After a four year excursion into road racing 2015 saw me return to the mountain bike, specifically MTB marathon racing. I had heard about the Beskidy MTB Trophy Stage race through British Champ Ben Thomas - four stages, lots of climbing and technical tough single track in the south of Poland - I was in.

Traveling to the race was straight forward, a direct flight from Dublin to Krakow, pick up the rental car and a two hour drive to a village close to the race. No more difficult than the many trips my wife (Melanie Spath) and I made to the UK for XC racing over the years - just a slightly longer flight.

Talking to riders who have raced this in the past two major things usually crop up - technical rocky descents and mud - the technical descents are very much here but summer recently hit the south of Poland and temperatures in the high 20s means little mud - wohoo.

After a leg opener session yesterday in glorious weather, some great local food (cheap too by Irish standards) and a good nights sleep I was ready for the 10am start (thank you to the organisers so much for not starting us at some ungodly hour!).

Todays course started out perfectly for a long stage race - a long steady climb that gets steeper as you climb - a nice way to break the legs in. After this, what followed where steep rocky descents, swooping trails skirting through summer flowers and usually fire roads to get you back to the top of the next rollercoaster. They were however some evilly steep climbs - sometimes cursing them carrying my 76kg up them (before when I mountain biked, I was 2-3kg lighter - spending a season racing on the flats in Belgium eating waffles makes you heavy!).

Fifteen minutes into the race, Ben stamped his authority on the front and opened a gap on our group - that was the last I would see of him until I was washing my bike afterwards (he would finish six minutes up on me). During the race I had several little battles with the riders around me but finally dropped my German companion Torsten Mutzlitz on a descent towards the end (I was on my hardtail bike - not my choice for this course as my full suspension Epic is being serviced - so I was happy with that - the Schwalbe 2.25 width tires and 29er Valor wheels helped me along though). I finished second.

It is now a few hours after the stage and I’m still buzzing about it - the trails really were incredible - I would even go as far to as I’m “stoked” ;)

Now to put the legs up and get ready for tomorrow's 85km stage with almost 3,000m of climb - we spend a large chunk of it in Slovakia - another country for me to add to my “being in” list.