Category Archives: Devon

Tour de Manche: the English section

The official route

Just as in France the English Tour de Manche uses a combination of small roads and greenways. From the ferry port at Poole the route takes to a cycle path through Baiter park and then alongside Poole Harbour to Sandbanks.

Poole Harbour

The Sandbanks chain ferry crosses to Studland and then the route goes to Corfe Castle.

Cyclists on the Sandbanks chain ferry

The route is not flat and after Corfe Castle, Creech hill is climbed before a descent to join Cycle Route 2 just east of Wool.

Tour de Manche on Route 2 in Dorset

Flat riding through quiet lanes on Cycle Route 2 brings you to Dorchester and onto Martinstown. There now comes an unavoidable Cat 4 climb over Hardy’s Monument.

Hardy’s Monument

Hardy’s Monument

The lovely Bride valley follows, still following Route 2 to bypass Bridport and start a series of steep climbs to Axminster.

Route 2 near Bridport

The route continues West along the Jurassic coast of Dorset and into Devon.

We found a lovely traffic free route through the city of Exeter emerging at Haldon, well on our way to Moretonhampstead and Dartmoor

Now we were in Devon who could resist a cream tea?

Cream tea

We chose to go across the middle of Dartmoor on the B3212. There are a few steep ramps on the climb onto the moor out of Moretonhampstead but it was very scenic and memorable.

The B3212 across Dartmoor

Beautiful view from Dartmoor down to the coast at Plymouth

On arrival at Plymouth there was time for a small celebration before catching the ferry to Roscoff.

Well deserved.


What is Ironman?


An Ironman Triathlon is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organised by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), a subsidiary of the Chinese Wanda Group, consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile (42.16 km) run, raced in that order and without a break. It is widely considered one of the most difficult one day sporting events in the world.

Wanda bought Ironman Races for $650 million dollars in August 2015 and estimates it will bring in $185 a year. Ironman hosts 200 events in 27 countries and has approximately 250,000 registered athletes.

Most Ironman events have a strict time limit of 17 hours to complete the race. Any participant who manages to complete the triathlon within these timings becomes an Ironman.

Athletes range from 18 to over 80 and from all different walks of life and athletic backgrounds. The mind is a powerful element of triathlon and mental strength is vital. An Ironman triathlon is arguably the most difficult one-day sporting event in the world, but if you have an open mind and the drive, you can do it. Anything is possible!

The name “Ironman Triathlon” is also associated with the original Ironman triathlon which is now the Ironman World Championship. Held in Kailua-Kona, the world championship has been held annually in Hawaii since 1978 (with an additional race in 1982) and is preceded by a series of qualifying Ironman events. The Ironman World Championships have become known for their gruelling length and harsh race conditions,

Other races exist that are of the same distance as an Ironman triathlon but are not produced, owned, or licensed by the World Triathlon Corporation. Such races include The Challenge Family series, Challenge Roth and many other long course events that are now established as part of the racing calendar such as Race New Forest, Brutal Triathlons, Castle Triathlon, The Outlaw and Xtreme. The main rival to Ironman has been the Challenge Family. They organise 44 full and half distance triathlons worldwide. They are a smaller family company based in Roth, Germany.

So Ironman is a worldwide profit making company. It is an international brand. Your entry fee – (typically £240 for a 70.3 event and £450 for a full Ironman) is set at a commercial rate to make money for this company. Ironman also attracts sponsors. This year Sketchers are their shoe sponsor and Arena are their swim sponsor.

Nutrition is provided by PowerBar.

Powerbar are the nutrition sponsor

PowerBar are the nutrition sponsor

I think Fyffes must also be involved judging by the number of bananas that are given out.

So why is Ironman so successful? What does this brand do at their events that have athletes desperate to part with their hard earned cash to participate? Some popular events, which tend to be the easier flatter courses, sell out within 24 hours.

I have done quite a few triathlons mostly non Ironman events. The full distance event I did last September – i.e. Ironman distance in Weymouth was organised by Challenge. Compared to the experiences I have had as a competitor and spectator at Ironman events the Challenge Weymouth event was quite inferior in many ways. Ironman have now taken over the Weymouth full distance event so on September 11th 2016 it is Ironman Weymouth and Ironman 70.3 Weymouth. ( It will cost you £415 for the full Ironman and £249 for the 70.3. ) and I expect that the many problems with the 2015 event will be rectified.

So what do you get for your money? In short – a grand day out.

Ironman organisation is flawless. They are very experienced in putting on the events and have a depth of experienced personnel. Most employees are Ironmen! Many events have been going for several years so rolling it out every year is easier. Exmoor 70.3 in 2016 was it’s 11th year. All teething problems are long gone. There is attention to every detail to ensure that the athletes experience is as good as it can be. They aim to give every athlete a great day regardless of their time. At an Ironman event athletes can be fairly confident that basics like the courses being the correct distance are taken care of.

From the moment of registration Ironman takes care of everything. Once they have your money – they look after you and in my experience there are few problems. Information is accurate and available readily. They send you messages which have some individuality (computer generated I’m sure) but make you feel valued. Leading up to the event more information is sent and email from the race director is aimed to make the athlete feel involved. Car parking is taken care of (advance charge of £10 at Exmoor) and information is given to help your logistical planning on how to get to the venue and accommodation etc. Information on the bike and run routes and advice on the likely weather and road conditions together with the equipment you will need are given.

There is an online Athletes Guide, which contains many pages of information about the event. Everything you could possibly need to know is in there. There is also an extensive list of rules and the penalties that are incurred if the rules are broken. The rules are there to enhance safety and to make the race fair for everyone. Triathlon is an individual race and must be completed without any outside assistance.

In the sporting world the Ironman logo is immediately recognisable. At an Ironman event you enter a corporate world of red and black.

It's all about the brand.

It’s all about the brand.

The organisation is meticulous. Every minuscule detail has been thought about in advance and is sorted. The event schedule tells you clearly what you need to do on the day and when it has to be done. By 4pm on the day before Exmoor 70.3 every athlete had to have their bike racked in transition and their red run bag and blue bike bag on the numbered racks in the transition tent. You are encouraged to attend a race briefing. There is a separate more detailed briefing for 70.3 Ironman virgins.

To keep the party rolling, Ironman for the first time this year at Exmoor, organised IronKids races. There are races which range in length from 2km for Year 9 to 500m for the under 5’s. This takes place on Saturday afternoon and with all the music and razzmatazz that goes with Ironman. The IronKids event was fabulous and I’m sure it will continue and grow. The children had the experience of racing in front of a crowd and ran down the red carpet to finish just like the grown- ups. Cost £12 per child – rewards – t shirt, medal and a great experience.

As in all organised events the bottom line is everyone must be kept safe – athletes and spectators.Security is also very important.  Each athlete will bring with them thousands of pounds worth of kit. My bike is down towards the lower end of the range and is worth £2k. So security is vital.  Ironman have very strict security. Athletes can feel confident that their stuff is safe.

Transition – you won’t get past this guy without your wrist band!

Transition – you won’t get past this guy without your wrist band!

Many of the strict rules that athletes have to follow enhance  safety. Ironman are strict about their rules and disqualification is a real threat if rules are infringed. At Exmoor 70.3 in 2016, 7 athletes were disqualified – all for dangerous bike riding.

There is some tangible stuff that each athlete receives for their entry fee. All items strongly reinforce the Ironman brand. On registration each athlete gets a rucksack and their swim cap.

Race goodies

Race goodies

On completion each athlete gets a medal

Finisher's medal

Finisher’s medal

and a rather good finisher t shirt which is sponsored by Craft.

Finisher's t-shirt

Finisher’s t-shirt

Food and drink is copious at the aid stations on the bike and run and there is also lots of food after the finish – unlimited. For those who win their category there is a trophy –  25cm of plastic – re-emphasising the Ironman Brand.

Category winner's trophy

Category winner’s trophy

Overall my experience of Ironman is that although it is expensive – if I going to spend months training for an event, I would rather pay more money and participate in an event which is a safe as it can be with flawless organisation and lots of fun .

For non-athletes I can see why there is some incredulity that people pay £400 to suffer for a day.

Ironman 70.3 UK Exmoor

My result. Click or tap the picture for more detail (Bib number 385)

My result. Click or tap the picture for more detail (Bib number 385)

I entered the Ironman 70.3 UK Exmoor event not long after I had completed the Challenge Weymouth ironman last September. The last 9 months of my life have been focused on training for this event. I did the London Marathon, some Audax rides and other events in between but the 26th June 2016 is the date I have been training for. Most weeks my training log shows about 17 hours. This is just the training time – I spend a lot of time faffing about doing at stuff to do with training. I enjoy the training mostly. I have a training plan which I invent based mostly on my own experience but sometimes I do what I fancy whether it is on the plan or not. Usually I end up doing more than the plan suggests. I’m not very good at rest days. My bottom line is that it has to be fun. If it is not fun it is not sustainable. I am very fortunate that by training sensibly and listening to my body when bits inevitably start niggling, that I have not developed any injuries that have stopped me from training during this 9 month period.
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Exmoor – Rivers and Sea

Day 1

In preparation (training is a difficult concept for Ian) for a much longer walk we have planned later in the year, we walked 100k from Dulverton to Minehead last week over 4 days. We carried everything we needed but stayed in guest accommodation and ate in pubs. Archie our Border Terrier came too, as he also need some multi day walking preparation.



We left our car at Dulverton and set off along the River Barle heading North. There is a good path that keeps close to the river for about 5 km to Castle Bridge. There is then a gentle ascent to Hawkridge where the path meets the Two Moors Way.

Hawkridge is one of the oldest communities on Exmoor. It lies on the track that crosses the River Barle at Tarr Steps and in sight of the barrows on Anstey Common. The church has Saxon origins.

The Two Moors Way is a long distance footpath between Ivybridge on the Southern edge of Dartmoor and Lynmouth on the North coast of Somerset. We have previously walked the Dartmoor section. This walk is within the Exmoor National Park and passes through landscapes of exceptionally high quality. Not only does this include the high moorland but also the deep and wooded valleys of the moor.

The Two Moors Way

The Two Moors Way

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The Grizzly 2016 – ‘Grin and Bear It’

The Grizzly is a race organised by Axe Valley Runners. It takes place in March every year and starts and finishes on Seaton sea front in Devon which is on the South coast of England.

Seaton sea front

Seaton sea front

The race is very popular and entry is gained by taking part in a ballot held in September where approximately 1500 places are allocated. About 400 women take part. The Grizzly has been happening every year since 1988. Not including 2016, the race has raised £305k for local charities. Every year the race has a name. The 2016 race was the 29th and was named ‘Grin and Bear It.’
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The Dartmoor Devil

The Dartmoor Devil is a 111km bicycle ride which reaches parts of Dartmoor other events do not reach. It is organised by CTC Devon. The event is an Audax ‘gold grimpeur’ Calendar Event. This means that the ride is worth 2 AAA points.

Finishers badge

Finishers badge

The Dartmoor Devil 2015 is ‘the 23rd Thrash’ and took place on Sunday 25th October. Unexpectedly for the time of year, the weather was dry, warm(ish), sunny with light winds. Most undevil like.
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Summer Solstice micro-adventure

We headed down to Dartmoor for the Summer Solstice weekend. We are fortunate in having this last great wilderness in England just an hour’s drive from home. It is a huge, largely uninhabited lonely area of moorland of some 365 square miles. On the North Moor near Cut Hill and Fur Tor it is over 5 km to a road. I love this wild, lonely remote area of uplands. The rolling, sweeping horizon with its huge skies is fabulous. You are never shut in on the moor, there is always a feeling of distance and vast open spaces.

Vast open spaces on Dartmoor

Vast open spaces on Dartmoor

The landscape has been much changed by man. Man has lived hunted and worked on Dartmoor since pre-historic times and has left his mark from hut circles, stone rows, megaliths and stone circles to tinners spoil tips and blowing houses, forestry and dams.
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