Monday, 31 August 2015

Leeds Netrunner Tournament

After hearing about the Core Set only Netrunner tournament at Leeds MeepFest via the Run Last Click blog I thought I'd give it a go. I mean I can beat Louise and Luke just over half of the time so I can't be that bad.... right?


A first go at deck building on the eve of the tournament so lots of thought and research went into it. Not.

Gabriel Santiago (Criminal) thinking he has a reasonable economy with Easy Mark, Bank Job and 2 credits for running on HQ.
2 x Gordian Blade - crims need a code gate breaker
2 x Akamatsu Mem Chip - didn't want to be waiting for a console
2 x Corroder - better than Aurora
1 x Medium - criminal puts pressure on HQ so wanted to add pressure to R+D also. Didn't manage to use this card effectively

Haas Bioroid thinking Biotic Labor, good economy and reasonably tough ice. To this I added
2 x Wall of Thorns
2 x Neural Katana
2 x Tollbooth
2 x Research Station for a bit of added hand size - these got trashed fairly quickly and didn't really bring any benefits.


Round 1 - bye
I was busy playing Star Trek Catan so missed the start of the games. An odd number of players so I got a bye (two free wins apparently but I didn't count them).

Round 2 - vs Ashley (Criminal and Haas Bioroid)
Runner - despite wanting to play conservatively I face checked an Ichi with one Gordian Blade installed and the other in the trash. That would be no code gate breakers for me then. Played very poorly, couldn't get in anywhere. Ashley scored out easily.

Corp - After Ashley pointed out that I needed to pay to install more than one ice on a server I felt even more stupid than before. Shortly after he Inside Job'd a server to steal an agenda I thought was safe. I managed to score an Accelerated Beta Test but we were running out of time. I didn't do my sums right and my opponent got into my remote server on the next to last run to pinch an agenda and then riffled through archives for the winning one.


Ashley went on to win the tournament so I didn't feel too bad at being beaten by the best man.

Round 3 vs Grumpy Neil (Shaper and Haas Bioroid)
Corp - Stupidly used my Biotic Labors to score out three 2-point agendas leaving me needing only a single point to win and only two three point agendas to do it with. Neil had some Datasuckers and Cyberfeeders up and running and quickly made short work of my defences, nabbing the last agendas from R+D.

Runner - Ate an early Aggressive Secretary but got back up and running, nabbing a couple of agendas. Low on time I made a last minute run on R+D and pulled a Priority Requisition off the top for a straight win, my first, last and only. Even then I felt like I'd got lucky rather than won on skill.



Finished the tournament joint last with Neil, even though the table said 4th I'm choosing to ignore the wins from my bye.

I was very frustrated with my performance. Really pissed off actually. I'm sure I can play better Netrunner than that. I could blame low blood sugar, the time of day (I always have a mental slump early afternoon), poor deck choice. Fundamentally I didn't concentrate and I feel like I played badly for myself which is most annoying. I failed to be cautious when approaching HB ice and paid. I failed to do my sums and paid. I failed to concentrate and paid.

My decks were OK but I didn't make Medium or Research Station work for me so they were poor choices on reflection. However most games I ended up with a decent amount of cash so at least my economy wasn't too bad.

Lessons Learned
  • Do your sums
  • Caution over confidence
  • Know your opponent's deck
  • Practice more
  • Play a wider range of opponents
  • Chill out, it's just a game dude!
Massive respect to people who play games at National and Worlds level. They usually play 8 rounds of two games just to make the final cut. My brain was baked after four games. I had to go in search of caffeine and sugar immediately afterwards.

I came away with two new ID cards as a consolation prize, lets see if I can put these to work!

Lastly, well done to Ashley who was a really nice guy and played some good cards to win the day. Kudos to Neil too for being a good opponent.

p.s. don't ask me where the Bill and Ted idea came from, I have no idea  8-)

Mary Towneley Loop

I must have investigated the Mary Towneley Loop (MTL) a while ago and forgotten about it, as when Karl and I came across the signs on some loops from Widdop reservoir I remembered enough about it for it to pique my interest again.

Follow the acorns, you can't go wrong... mostly.

The best info on the MTL is this map produced by National Trails which, as well as showing the trail direction, lists many of the amenities en route. Looking at the altitude profile I elected to do it clockwise from Widdop so that I could ride more (steady uphills, steep downhills) and push less. This also meant the last climb and descent was on familiar territory.

I confess my heart wasn't in it when I woke up, having fried my brain the previous day playing 6 hours of new board games and 2 hours of Netrunner tournament at the Leeds MeepFest; I was all for rolling over and getting a few more hours sleep. As a result I was a bit later than I would have liked setting off.

The small car park at Widdop was full of JCBs and portakabins so I parked by the track to Gorple, got heavily midge-d getting the bike off the roof so was glad to get going finally.

L: At the start and on the way to Gorple
R: Sheep having a paddle in the drinking water

Dropping down into Rodmer Clough the signage for the trail worsened and the veritable confusion of footpaths in the area didn't help my map reading. With the assistance of my phone GPS I eventually got back on track but missed the turning up to Blackshaw Head and ended up coming down Colden Clough (or should that be "rough"?) into Hebden Bridge. Back out on the main road again to pick up the turn up the hill at Callis Bridge where I stopped for a couple of chocolate brioche rolls from the rucksack.

On this leg the route has felt quite broken up and not particularly flowing with the poor waymarking (and navigating) and numerous gates.

 Herman taking a break at Callis Bridge

The climb out of the valley is through pleasant woodland on a decently paved track and altitude was gained quickly. It didn't take long to get to the top...

...which revealed a view of the trail ahead traversing underneath Stoodley Pike down to Makinholes. Riding down this bit of trail brought back memories of doing the Haworth Hobble a few years ago, being fed single malt by the KCAC crew at the Makinholes checkpoint and having a massive energy crash coming back over to Haworth. Fun times.

Stoodley Pike

By far and away this was the most popular segment with horses as I (carefully) passed around 10 of them travelling in either direction. Finally, the descent into Lumbutts was down some steep stone set trails with the odd upended stone mid path to keep things interesting.

Moving out of Lumbutts I got stuck in the worst traffic jam for a while with a farmer and family moving their sheep up the road to another field. It was nice to have all the traffic slowed down to the same pace as I offered round my jelly babies to the kids that were helping keep the sheep on track.

Traffic jam, Lumbutts style

A steady climb in bottom gear from Lumbutts around Rake End on mode bumpy stone set paths before dropping down steep rocky trails, passing bikers pushing up the other way and a collie dog intent on herding me, down into Bottomley. This stretch from Hebden Bridge to Bottomley was quite rough but much more flowing and enjoyable than the first part, especially the traverse under Stoodley Pike and the views down the valley.

Bottomley Canal crossing

I pushed up the steep path out of Bottomley, plagued by flying ants and strange flying insects with long dangling legs that kept trying to hitch a free ride to the top of the hill. Gerrof me legs! I found a fly free spot at the top to have a marmite and cheese bagel from the pack and a brief rest.

The bit from Summit to Watergrove reservoir  to Broadley can't have been that interesting as it all passed in a bit of a blur. I remember a nice memorial garden just above the res with a good view out to Rochdale and a bike barrier too narrow to fit a pair of mountain bike bars through (thoughtful!).

I did stop to chat to a fellow biker who held a gate open for me. He'd been practicing a line in what looked like some old mine workings and was chuffed to have finally cleaned it. We talked about the local biking scene, the MTL and he recommended both Cragg Quarry and Lee Quarry as good biking venues with short punchy technical lines. Might be worth a trip out sometime.

Looking down to Watergrove reservoir

Down into Broadley and it was time to stop and refuel at the corner shop. A bottle of water went in into the pack and a flapjack and a tin of Vimto went down the hatch getting ready for the big climb up Rooley Moor.


Passing through the amusingly named Prickshaw and up Whimsy Hill, past Bagden Hillocks and Clegg Ding on the long, slow, bottom-gear-and-spin climb up to Top of Leach summit on Rooley Moor. Small fist sized rocks cause the front wheel to twist as they send you in a different direction, usually into more of them that rebound you away like a pinball buffer or into some really draggy sandy gravel that takes even more from your legs. I passed a chap on a bike who grumbled that I wasn't going to give him a tow up! Nevertheless I made it to the top clean and was quite happy to get the biggest and hardest climb out of the way.

Perspective issues. The bottom reservoir (Cowpe) is about 10 times larger than the top one.

Passing through Cragg quarry and the angry bees of various trials bikes doing their thing I dropped down into Waterfoot. Here the ride got very urban as you climb past terraced houses, along a quiet bit of bridleway (more gates) and down into Lumb. The section towards Water and Clough Bottom reservoir is marked on the map as "allow time for numerous gates" but there weren't any more on this stretch than I had encountered already!

There are many, many gates on this ride.

There's a bit of a pointless diversion as you cross the A671 to keep the horses away from the traffic; if you are on a bike then just follow the road and pick up the bridleway later. Just above Holme Chapel is a memorial stone to Mary, Lady Towneley who campaigned for better bridleways. Obviously a horsey sort of person (as in liked rather than resembled) I wonder what she would think of hordes of sweaty mountain bikers tearing around the place.

The monument reads:

The air of heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears.
Lady Towneley MBE 23.2.1935 - 13.2.2001
Pause awhile beside this monument and remember Mary, whose vision opened up once more these ancient routes so that you too can refresh your spirit as the wild and romantic terrain of the Pennine Bridleway unfolds before you.
After pausing a while and eating some jelly babies I dropped down into Holme Chapel and climbed up to Long Causeway. This last stretch feels like the wildest and least touched by human efforts despite the odd reservoir and wind farm.

Down to Cant Clough reservoir and the last of my sandwiches with the sheep looking on in envy. I knew they wanted that last brioche roll but it was mine!

As soon as I hit the track up to Gorple Gate I got a little boost of spirit, knowing that I'd set out on something that I thought was pretty tough and managed to make it round. A steady climb in a lower gear than last time I did it and before I knew it I was looking down over Gorple with only the last rocky descent to do.

Bumpy paths and rocky roads were the staple of the ride and the last descent to Widdop was no exception with my biceps feeling like they were about to be shaken off completely. Despite this tiredness I still managed to get a Strava 2nd best and a PR on this segment. Not sure how!

The midges were out when I got back to the car having taken 8 1/2 hours with breaks to complete the loop, a time that I'm very happy with given the distance and terrain. My Strava log for the ride is here.

I went home and treated myself to a massive Domino's pizza and a pint of tea after sluicing off half the moor off my legs.

Thoughts on the day

The weather was great for this kind of endeavour, a light cloud covering was keeping the temperature down and reducing the risk of sunburn. No wind to push against, although I wouldn't have said no to a playful, cooling breeze at some points.

A lightweight merino top was all I needed and the windproof stayed in the pack. I was mindful to keep drinking from my water bladder throughout the day and I'd loaded it up with some Nuun tablets to make sure I didn't run out of salts. I slurped my last bit of water from my bladder as I was coming down to the car so perfect timing. It subsequently took me half a day to rehydrate properly though, I was definitely in water debt!

The marmite and cheese bagels were a savoury delight as usual.

The route is OK with some really good bits like under Stoodley Pike and from Long Causeway to Gorple. However fighting through numerous gates and being shaken to bits at various points took a bit of a shine off it. A good day out nevertheless and a tough physical challenge. I might be tempted to do it the other way round for comparison but there are other bridleways in the Dales that are clamouring for my attention.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Dales MTB, Circuit From Hebden #mtbtuesday

Finally I've managed to take the mountain bike up into the Dales! Karl and I headed up to Hebden outside Grassington (at the suggestion of Damian at work) for a short circuit on the moors.

Plenty of parking at the start in Hebden and before long we were winding our way up alongside the beck through a pleasant mini valley, criss-crossing the stream a few times leading to some soggy socks (everyone's favourite). The route spat us out at Yarnbury, site of the last Fellsman checkpoint so some fond memories from my last visit to the area!

This route takes you through the abandoned lead mines above Grassington, a landscape that you could conceivably use for testing moon landers. Old 50s concrete and rusted corrugated iron vies for place with old spoil heaps from the shallow drift mines. I'm quite fond of derelict industrial landscapes in a way, the setting of this one is particularly jarring.

I've heard Grassington was once considered the roughest village in Yorkshire due to the number of lead miners in the area; a far cry from the tea shops in the village that bills itself as the Heart Of The Dales. The history of the village makes for interesting reading.

The track over towards Bycliffe / Mossdale Scar is a steady away climb on a good surface and would have been fairly quick had we not been hampered by a strong cold headwind and horizontal rain. My waterproof has given up the ghost and I got pretty cold at one point, having to stop and fish the buff out of the pack. Ice cream headache makes a James miserable! The rain and wind eventually subsided as we descended.

The descent down into Conistone is nice and steady, fairly easy going with no suprises. Karl let me have a go on his new On One Fatty and I can certainly see the appeal. It's like riding a sofa through the rough stuff - very civilised, stable and goes exactly where you want it to. Grin inducing; I can see me purchasing one at some point. It made climbing back onto Herman seem like a bit of a shock, he does have quite a harsh ride by comparison.

The rain and oncoming darkness meant we skipped the planned trip up Mastilles Lane and headed back down the road into Grassington and back to Hebden. Cold, wet and muddy by the time we got back to the car, it felt more like autumn than summer. On with the heated seats and back for marmite on toast and a hot shower.

More Dales riding pls!