Monthly Archives: March 2012

Tubby is a Big Beast

As we move into British summertime, the team are all getting serious about team training and getting in as many group rides as possible.

Aye right.  Me and my boy Tubs today, and that’s your whack.  Big Sam on his 3rd holiday of the year and the G Train in Stirling for a fly little duathlon that he set up (would have been more than tempted by that myself).  The rest of the chaps blanked my weekly text,b ut it was good to hear that 2 of them got a good ride in on Saturday.

Speaking of Saturday, I had a 15 km run with a group of pupils in Beecraigs country park near Linlithgow as part of their World Check out the nick of that old guyChallenge training and sponsorship raising.  The group had their own way of getting around the course (mainly they opted for the 10 km route) but myself and young Marshy led the way admirably.  By the finale we were 20 mins clear of the next runner.  A final devastating sprint by the youngster left me for dust.  Little rascal ate all my energy chews and stuck on my shoulder from first to last before blowing me away – and I’ll hear all about it next week.  Anyway, the cross country course was pretty tough with 3 good hills that had to be negotiated 3 times each.  Left me feeling pretty bushed in advance of the Sunday 60 miler.

And so to Sunday.  Up just before 5.30 in old money and hooked up with the Tubster at the Kirkhouse just  before 8 (in new money).

First day out for the CerveloSummer is clearly here as Tubby had the good bike out and his shorts on.  However, it was pretty baltic as we headed out in the mist on the ‘easy’ 16 miles to Aberfoyle.  Clearly, a cracking day was on the cards whenever the sun managed to burst through.

From the very beginning I knew it was going to be a tough day for me.  Tired in body and mind, I was seeing hils on the way to Aberfoyle that I’ve never noticed before.  Come the Dukes Pass and Tubby pushed ahead of me.  Caramba.  I did manage to push on a little and together we crested the top of the hill to some beautiful scenery and a pretty cool inversion with the sun shining in the sky.  Smashing.

Now to head to Callendar and Tubby is complaining that I’m costing him a good average.  SO I tell him to get up top and stay there – I’m coasting the last 30 behind him.  The wee fella did a great job cosying me along until Kippen where suddenly my legs decided to wake up a little, and a rise I had been dreading was actually rather nice.

Only the Crow Road to go and the last burst to Strathblane.  I fairly belted up the Crow Road with Tubs conserving some energy after his sterling efforts from earlier.  We kept a good pace on the last 5 to Strathblane as Tubs wanted to preserve his 17 mph average.  This he duly did, with his final average being 17.1 mph – 2 mph faster than usual.  Mighty impressive.  Say what you want about EPO abuse.  Tubs is proof that come March, and his chemicals arrive, the results go through the roof.  As tired as I felt, my average ended up 17.3 mph.  Only 0.1 mph slower than last time, when Gio and myself blazed home from Callendar turning some fast pedals.

A tough day for me, and I owe the Tubby lad a debt of gratitude.  Thanks for the wheel fella, and a great ride.

Chasing buses

The main Sunday ride was a Duke’s Pass run, planned for a 7.45am start from the Kirkie. Now the clocks were changing, so would effectively mean I’d need to be up at ‘old’ 5am (6am with the hour change) to get there in time. As I didn’t relish that idea, decided to dodge it, as Mark M had invited me out with his friend Mark D (so many Marks to keep track of) for a Saturday jaunt to Helensburgh. This seemed like a more sleep friendly outing – starting around 9am. Much more sensible. Headed round to Mark M’s for around 8.30, then met up with Mark D on Great Western Road, and we made our way to Anniesland and then on to Dumbarton. The two M’s were doing most of the work, with me tucked in behind and getting some practice at wheel hugging.  The fairly flat route saw us making good time, and we were soon in Helensburgh, sitting on an average speed of mid 18mph. We made a brief stop while Mark M said a quick hello to friend refurbing a restaurant, had a quick on-bike snack, then were on our way to the first (and only) climb of the day at Glen Fruin.

Cattlegrid at the bottom of Glen Fruin

Cattlegrid at the bottom of the climb up Glen Fruin

Climb up Glen Fruin

The climb up Glen Fruin - it's steeper than it looks

We turned off the main road, dropped onto the small ring, and headed up the hill, a quick burst of speed over the first cattle grid and we settled in to the ascent. My climbing practice on the Hairy Brae from last week’s Largs trip was put to good use, switching between on-saddle and on pedals standy-up techniques to keep the pace going as best I could, giving an average speed of around 7.5mph for the mile up the hill. The two M’s were pleased with my attempt at the climb, Mark M in particular commenting on my improvement since we were last out together, so I guess all this training is paying off. The descent down to Arden saw us hitting around 35mph, before joining a nice busy A82 for a couple of miles before escaping the traffic onto the Luss road and making our way through Balloch and Alexandria, setting a solid pace as we went. Soon we were back on to the now dual-carriageway A82 for the return to Glasgow, Mark D leading the way, with only the occasional short split forming at round-a-bouts or traffic lights. The majority of the time though we formed a compact group and the last few miles into the city were soon behind us. As we returned through Anniesland, Mark D took a training tip from the great Robert Millar, and chased a bus halfway up the road in the outside lane (Mr Millar used to cycle after buses from Glasgow to Kilmarnock and Ayr).  Not my idea of a good training strategy, but was amusing to watch.

My average speed was now sitting at 17.4mph, a record for me over the 55 or so miles we’d completed. Mark M headed off along Queen Margaret Drive, Mark D and myself continuing along Gt. Western road, before splitting at Gibson Street to head to our respective homes. Having to stop for the numerous traffic lights between this point and my flat knocked a few tenths off my average, but still a very respectable 17.1 mph average for 59.5 miles and my best average to date for a 50 mile+ route.

For the Garmin fans: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/161545729

Sharapova goes to Largs

3 new tops, 1 new bike

ready to hit the road in the new threads

Sunday. 6am. The things I do for this cycle training malarky. Up and at ’em to get round to the starting point for the day’s cycle to Largs (remember the train?) – Big J’s house. So I’m getting in an extra 6 or so miles as a ‘warm up’ by cycling over to his place. When I arrive (a couple of minutes later than the 7.30 start time) everyone’s getting kitted out in the new cycle jerseys which arrived a few days before (John, Sammy and Brian). A smart looking team get lined up for photo’s, with poor Niamh (Big J’s 11 yr old) roped in at this early hour on Sunday morning as photographer. A few “drive-by” photos and we’re ready to go, except John is having some sort of issue, and is in and out the house for bits n bobs. The rest of us, getting a bit chilly standing (sitting?) around waiting head off, knowing he’ll soon catch up. I lead off, calling behind for directions as I’m not sure which way we’re going (Largs is somewhere I drive to. In a car on motorway/ dual carriageways. Which is sensible, its quite far away). We’re soon working our small train of 3 well, setting a good pace and its not long until we’ve left the more built up areas for the countryside. Brian and Sammy are not happy at the spatter from the occasional puddle/ damp stretch of road soiling their pristine new jerseys, but I’m not paying much attention as I’m starting to wonder if I overdid the training this week (3 pacey 6 mile runs and two 15/18 mile cycles). The first incline of any note and I’ve dropped off the back. They wait at the top, and we get to admire the view – the sun is out, though its still chilly – as John appears a short distance behind us. He goes to pull out his camera, but can’t find it in any of his pockets – he has the case though. Has it fallen out on the road? A quick phone call home confirms he actually left it behind, so camera phone it has to be. John’s new carbon Trek is ‘not feeling right’, swapped wheels and tweaked handlebars are not what they should be, but some road-side mechanicking from Sammy seems to do the trick and we’re good to go.

top of the hill

A short post bike fix break. And its sunny.

view

looking the other way, blue sky.
No clouds. No rain.

I take off a little ahead of the group (chance to go a bit slower til they catch me up), but have only gone a mile or so around the loch and there’s no sign behind, so pull over, grab my phone and take a few piccies at Loch Thom. Sammy and Brian round the corner, but John isn’t with them.

Loch Thom

Loch Thom

Sammy and Brian at Loch Thom

Sammy and Brian rounding the corner at Loch Thom (small/ far away)

He turns up moments later, something not right with his gears now. More quick fixes and we’re off again. The road gets a bit hilly and I’m starting to regret my sub-40 10k on Monday, and drop behind the rest again. But its not long before there’s a good downhill stretch and not being with the group is of little consequence – the road down in to Greenock is steep and allows for a good turn of speed.
We regroup at the bottom, and I refuel on a Torq bar, a gel, a few Zip-vit sweets and wash it down with some lucozade. There’s a nasty little ‘thigh-burner’ coming up and I want to be ready for it. We set off, the first left turn is up a fairly steep hill, then a right up a slightly easier incline (I’m dropped, again), left twice more before the wee bugger of a hill I remember from back in January. At this point, no-one is in sight, but I recall school shot-putting practice – I was rubbish, but a fellow pupil from my athletics club (a chunky thrower) recommended grunting will get you an extra few feet, so decided this must translate into hill climbing, go all Sharapova and grunt my way up the hill, putting in a decent (for me) turn of speed to reach the summit.

We travel on and down into Largs without incident, though I seem to lose touch with the group with regularity, we regroup outside the ice-cream shop. A snack break, then a few photos of us looking dapper in our team kit with the seaside behind us (though I’m too busy snacking to get my camera-phone out), and we take off towards the next challenge – the Hairy Brae. We are instantly put at a disadvantage, the lights are red at the start of the climb, forcing us all to start from a standstill before we can push upwards. I stick to the group for the first section, but am soon left behind, and a lorry gets between me and the group, causing a concertina of traffic behind it. I’m tempted to hang on to its trailer as it passes, but decide thats probably not the best plan in the world. No way am I stopping on this hill, so just keep plugging away, hoping the vehicles will get by without bumping me or the leading group. The lorry eventually gets by and the other traffic thins out, the climb continues, and I give a few brief attempts at upping my speed by standing on the pedals. This works out ok, so try and work in a few more ‘standy-up’ bits as I continue upwards. As the incline lessens, I start to speed up a little, trying to remember how long it is to the top (you don’t really pay attention to these things when you are driving the car along). I glance up along the now straight road, to see Mr. Whitevanman hurtling towards me on my side of the road as he overtakes a couple of small cars – I’m not liking the look of this, the road isn’t that wide, so move as close to the gutter as I can, and am missed by feet, though it feels much closer as I’m buffeted by the van as he zooms by and I offer him some unheard driving advice and a few choice words of abuse.

The top comes soon enough, and the rest wait in the roadside parking bay, arguing whether a 54/25 or 26 (28?) is the way to go. I’ve no real idea what they are on about (something to do with gears/cog sizes I gather), so just take the opportunity to slug back some juice while they come to any sort of conclusion. We set off in a train, the rolling of the road is such that I’m able to keep pace comfortably, and we pick up a roaring pace as the road takes on a combination of level and downward slopes, with few upward sections to slow our progress. At one point I find myself at the lead, zipping downhill and unable to keep up with the pedals and no bigger gears left. Realising the futility of continuing pedalling when I’m not actually achieving anything, and the slighly scary speed we are at (knocking on 40mph) entering a corner, I stop pedaling. Apparently this is bad form, to which John yells – keep pedaling! so I do, to little effect other than looking like I’ve a vague notion of what to do. I guess I need another cog somewhere for these odd speedy bits. 28?

The pace settles down as we pass Kilbirnie before another ‘hill’ is to come (around Lochwinnoch) after which I’m warned we take a right turn on the downhill. The “up” doesn’t take long to spread us out, and its not much longer before I’ve lost sight of the team again. The ‘hill’ seems to be over and there’s no sign of a right turn or in fact anything much other than traffic cones on various bits of ‘road closed except for access’ sections. I occasionally see road bike tyre tracks leading out of puddles so think I’m going the correct route, but begin to wonder if I’ve somehow missed a turning somewhere along the way. I’m not that bothered, as I’ve a vague notion of where I am, as I’ve a recollection of being round these parts in the pouring rain/ wind with Mark M a few weeks previous, so tootle along regardless, with a plan of working out a way back home solo if need be. My concerns are soon over, as I hit a downward section, and can see a few black and white jerseys ahead, as the three others wait in the promised right turn. We regroup, as a couple of other cyclists head down the hill I’ve just come down, the second yelling to his friend to ‘go right’ as he zooms on oblivious. We have a short conversation, offering ourselves as a target for him and his buddy once he realises he’s missed the turn. We set off again, and I’m struggling to maintain contact, but notice I’m averaging just around 15mph over the route as we head into Bridge of Weir. The road flattens out, the team keen to hit their target 17mph average, but I’m fading and not up to their pace. However, I’m still keeping my own pace well above 15, so am happy enough on my own, though regretting not hanging on the back a bit longer as I’m not really sure where I’m going. I soon see a junction ahead signed for Paisley to the right, Erskine left, can’t see the guys, so reckon Paisley is the way for me (it isn’t). As I close in on the junction, I see them on the left, so slow to a stop. Left it is. A squad of purple/blue clad cyclists come by as we discuss my proposed route (apparently the Paisley road way ‘wouldn’t be fun’ and ends up on the motorway), one of whom plays with the oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road eliciting a few angry beeps from a car. We turn left, and I tuck in behind John determined to hang on for the last few miles.

We hit a roundabout, and it seems Brian has been left behind. In the team spirit of the moment (polite translation of what passes between the guys – “he’ll catch us up”), we forge on, but John and Sammy’s pace is proving hard to match. They leave me on a slow climb, but a dozen or so of our purple/blue friends appear behind me soon after, so I put in a surge to latch on to the last in the group as they come by (Mark M’s words of “closer” echoing in my head). Now this is more like it. I’m barely putting in any effort, and am cruising along at the back of this three-wide group. Bliss. Sadly this easy going is short-lived, as they all turn off, bar one, a short distance along the way. I thank them for the tow, and try to hang on to my new friend, who has spotted John and Sammy ahead, and has upped his pace to catch them. He reaches them stopped at a set of lights lights. I start to get into range just after the lights change and they’ve surged off, but 70-odd miles are taking their toll and I can’t match their speed. I drop off before making contact, but am not that far behind as we near the round-a-bout leading to John’s house. Purple/blue goes straight on, J&S turn right, but I’m not going to catch them now. I roll up to John’s slightly ahead of Brian – turns out he couldn’t get clipped in back at the Paisley/Erskine turn and was playing catch-up all the way, missing out on the tow-advantage of team purple/blue that I was lucky enough to get.

Top result for me – 15.5mph average, 72.08 miles. My best average to date and my longest ever cycle in the bag. And even better – no train-ticket required.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/159597773

More photos (proper camera not my basic phone one will hopefully come via Big J), carrot cake (thanks Mrs. Sammy!) chit-chat about the day, and then I take a ‘recovery’ ride for the 6-miles back home.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/159597731

Shouldn’t have reset my Garmin, got an extra 0.1 mph speed on this last 6 miles…

Team Kit, New Shiny and Thinking Next Phase

After a looooong time of designing kits, voting for favoured choices, acquiring sponsors, redesigning kit and working backwards and forwards with Owayo to make sure that the design was just to the required specifications, the order was placed (5 final orders made).  Of course, after the 5th final order, Sammy said that his kit size as ordered was wrong.  Oh dear, too late to change.  We shall have to wait and see (but I think the big chap will be fine, because he’s not the big chap he used to be).

Anyway – it’s here!  And it’s belting.  I’m impressed anyway.  We’ll have to to see what the rest of the team think once they collect their goods.  Hopefully, all of our sponsors will be impressed with their product placement.

Of course, there is no point in having a nice new kit and finding that it doesn’t match your bike – so I simply had to go and get a new shiny.  Check out the new Trek 3.5.  Wonderful reviews received for the 2012 incarnation of this bike and I can’t wait to hit the roads with it in earnest.

So we’ve got the kit, we’ve got the bikes (4 new purchases since the turn of the year), and training is coming along also.  The route is decided, accommodation is booked, all travel arrangements are in the bag.  The next thing to do is to begin to focus on starting to reach out to hit the fund raising target that the team has set as a fitting momento to the memory of wee Dee.

If you’re reading this, why not have a look at out Remembering Dee page and see the girl we’re doing it for (Ian will get you the password – don’t be shy to ask).  Then, maybe have a look at the Donate page and make a donation, no matter how large or small, to show support for our 2 wonderful charities who need all the help they can get to continue the excellent work that they do.

Wun Tun

Sammy, me and Tubs out today.  Gio drops out as he is allergic to runs that do not start from the Egasa clubhouse – his hoose.  The idea was to bag one of the hills from Simon Warren’s “100 Greatest Climbs” book – the Rest and Be Thankful.  Sammy and myself did this last year.  After I got home I had a wee look in the book and discovered that indeed we did NOT do it.  Yes, we got up to the Rest and Be Thankful from Arrochar but that’s not the hill in the book.  Oh Bother (1).

Fully researched this time, we knew where we were going.  A 60 miler planned taking car or cars to Luss and cycling from there.  Sammy mentioned that his brother was interested in coming – so a route change to start at his brother’s in Dumbarton.  An 80 mile route now.  Finally, after a chat with Sammy and a throwaway joke about just starting from mine (where we were going to meet in the cars), and yes, the joke became reality – the first 100 miler of the season planned – 107 miles in all.

Blowing

The first few miles match my commute until we head to Erskine.  Going down a I little hill just before the bridge I pull the brakes (with my new expensive brake pads on).  Nada.  The Mavic man Sammy comes to the rescue and we get the brakes infinitely better – in that they work.  Just as well that little hill was there.  If I needed the brakes coming off the bridge there could have been carnage.  Nice to prove that we don’t need Ian along (hangover) to have a wee mishap.

Once we leave the towns behind, the route really shows its class.  As soon as we turn off the A81 towards Gairlochhead and hit the rolling ups and downs the route is a cracker.  A lot of the road surfaces were brand new – we were all flying along enjoying the surfaces (especially Sammy with his new GP 4000 tyres in play – here comes summer).

Young Tubs is beginning to show some form – he drops back a bit on the hills but it’s no longer the dramatic collapses that he’s been known to experience earlier in the year – the fitness is coming as he ups the training.

Gairlochhead and Arrochar zip by and it’s up the Rest and Be Thankful the non-book way.  We met up with 3 chaps and make some kind of progress up the hill together.  I was grateful of the support of one of the chaps (Colin?) as we took turns towing each other up the hill.  Some tales at the top of upcoming trips to Alps had me misty eyed (still trying to get Mrs M to agree to a wee alpine sojourn in June with the Tubbys but she’s still not wearing it – I’ll need to have another go.  Better idea.  My lovely mother will be reading this – she can have a go at convincing Carol.  For your son, mother dear)?

Freezing by the time we went down the hill, but we soon warmed up as the mist and light rain abated.  Then we hit the road to Lochgoilhead.  An absolute cracker of a road – loved by one and all.

A little stop to regroup with the real hill just ahead.  We then encounter some muppet in a car doing his dinger because we’re ‘blocking’ his route on the road.  Aye right, pal.  Move 3 cm to the right and continue (or move 15 feet – you’ve got all the space in the world and not a car in sight).  Some choice language to send him on his way – not by me though, ’cause my mum’s reading.  At this point my GPS batteries gave up the ghost.  Oh bother (2).  I’m very anal about recording my stats so this is a bummer.  Teach me to upload the stats more often and get the device charged.  Surprisingly, it’s charging as I write this now.

And now the hill.  The other guys said it was a real toughie.  I wasn’t so sure.  There are lots of flattish parts to recover and only a couple of 16% bits to have you on the pedals.  However, it sure is a nice ride.  So, back round to the Rest and Be Thankful and the long descent to Arrochar and another regroup.

Only really one other significant climb on the way back, although it should be noted that Sammy and myself wait for our amigo Tubs two or three times when he has a rough patch on hills – remember this.

As we approach home Sam and myself are close to energy out.  No need for a gel – we’ll coast home and get something to eat.  We look round to make sure Tubs is still there – he’s not taken a turn at the fron to help his brothers for quite a while – no matter, he ain’t heavy.  And then the boy does it.  He shames himself by making a sprint in the last half mile.  Shameless.

Tubs outrageous behaviour apart this was a cracking run with some great roads.  A grand choice.

Bump

On Thursday I undertook a  toughish 5 and a half mile run into the wind and up the hill towards the Bowfield Country Club with a couple of  young whipper snapper pupils from school.  The run went well (i.e. this old guy managed to keep ahead of the young dudes).  Afterwards I jumped on the bike and headed home.

The commute home is a nice flat and generally car free route, apart from the first mile and a half and the last mle and a half.  The start is a bit of a pain with a bundle of traffic lights on slopes and some poor road surfaces.  Never mind.  I got myself to the last set of lights and only had the last poor road surface to deal with and then I would have some lovely roads with big wind at my back.  And then it happened.  Bump.  Struck by a car.  Fortunately, there was no damage.  I think the car’s mirror hit my elbow and I managed to stay on the bike, but caramba, what a shock you get.  My wee mate Jim only started back at work this week after 3 months off with a broken hip when he too had a bump with a car.  He still looks far from back to his best (hmmm, how did I manage to write that having told him how great he’s looking)?

Anyway, the lady in the car did pull over and looked quite shaken herself.  I kept my best behaviour and informed her that I was OK, but please, please give me some room.  A car’s width rather than a tyre’s (bike) width.

It’s tough being a cyclist.  Give us just a little bit more room folks.

Thank you.

We’re faster than an Audi A6

Sunday’s training run – the Duke’s, Kippen and Crow Road hills – a tough 60 miler, and now a favourite route of the team was on the table. Gio, John and myself were the riders, with the rest out for various reasons. We set off, the roads drying out and the clouds clearing away, looking to give us a decent day for the ride. Section one (stealing Big J’s breakdown of the route), a nice section of rolling road to Aberfoyle, allowed me to get some good practice at group riding, taking turns at the front and resulting in a nice average speed of 18.7mph. I found myself falling off the back a bit if I took a swig of juice after my turn at the front, must work on the process of pedalling and drinking, but easily regained the group at this early stage of the ride.

We soon had our first hill ahead of us, at the ~16 miles mark, the Duke’s pass (section 2). A brief stop to refuel, and I set off ahead of the others, knowing they’d soon overhaul me. Determined to take this hill without falling below 6mph (speedy!), started steadily, trying to avoid dropping into my lowest gear, standing on the pedals at the steeper parts of the climb. The hardest parts of the hill still are still challenging, but at this point, have lost their full thigh-burner status as my ability to cycle and understanding of the gears have improved. Result – 7.95mph. Not brilliant, but pleased that I easily topped my 6mph target.

Section 3, rolling roads again and more group riding. Odd incident on the road (all the fun happens when I’m in the group it seems), as at one point we’re hot on the tail of an elderly driver in an A6 and we’re having to brake to avoid running in to them! Much confusion and merriment from us, but eventually the driver works out the pedal on the right makes you go quicker and we’re left behind, no longer sucking in their fumes.  This section saw us averaging around 18.8mph. Consistent stuff. We were soon hitting the 40 mile mark, the second hill of the morning at Kippen, and as usual, the others leave me on the first rise of the climb. I settled in to my own rhythm, enjoying the scenery and having mixed feelings towards the sunshine (nice for view, not so much for sweatyness). Its not long before two ‘pro’ cyclists zip by me, not muttering a word in response to my greeting as they tear up the hill, I guess saving their breath for whatever private competition they are in. Not much further on, another cyclist, sharing the previous pair’s team colours breezes by me, this time with a hearty hello. As I crest the final rise he’s not far off, so I clunk up the gears in a (futile) attempt to catch him – another short hill puts paid to my chase but shortly after I do catch them, as they’ve all stopped to regroup with another handful of their buddies. Average up the hill – 8.3mph. Not so bad. I press on, as John and Gio are not to be seen (no stopping at the top this time) and enjoy the downhill section solo. Well, up to the point some (hmm, family audience), so lets say “bad driver” in a Range Rover thinks driving up my backside and beeping me when there’s bags of room on the other side of the road to overtake (no other traffic for miles) is the correct etiquette. Must look that up in the Highway Code as I must have skipped that part.

13 miles to go. Shame there's a nasty big hill in the way.

Fintry. Chow stop. J&G already out of sight.

We regroup around Fintry, John and Gio wanting to hammer on to the Crow (aka section 5). I’m happy to let them go, and chow down on a Torq bar (ginger and pineapple flavour – who came up with that one?) and a gel before heading along solo to the 3 mile climb before me. I settle in to a I’m-pretty-knackered-don’t-care-how-fast-this-is pace (turns out to be 7.6mph average) as I’m hitting the limit of my current fitness and ability. As I climb slowly, a handul of riders come down the hill (oh how I detest their ability to freewheel at this point in the day) with a cheery nod, wave or ‘hello’ to which I attempt a similar greeting, its success dependent on how steep the hill is at that point. As I reach the ‘house’ on the hill, the weather decides that it would make my cycle oh so much more fun if it were to hail. How nice, tiny ice particles pinging off my face just to cheer me along. The hail stops as I crest the hill, and I clunk the gears into a more suitable ratio for the downhill section. More hail. The faster I go, the more it hurts, so I ease off the pedals until it subsides moments later. Top speed on the downhill, 33mph. Could have been quicker, but I’m shattered and don’t have the energy or confidence to risk much faster.

We regroup at the bottom (section 6), John and Gio keen to be off and maintain their 17+mph average. I agree to hang on to the back for as long as I can, but am doubtful that I’ll keep up for any length of time. My doubts are soon confirmed as we’ve barely gone a few hundred yards before I lose touch on a round-a-bout and the legs are just not interested in pushing the pedals to get back to the duo ahead, hunting down some fellow cyclist they’ve spotted. The wind picks up, as I check my watch which is showing around 3 hours 45, with 4 miles to go. I forge on, trying to work out what pace I need to maintain to get this done in sub-4 hours, but am foiled by the wind and my complete lack of energy. The last 3 miles offer little respite from the wind, my average drops to just over 11mph but I get back in one piece – a slight niggle in my left knee, but otherwise unscathed. 60 miles done, overall average of 14.9mph. 15mph and sub-4 hours next time…

Generations on Form

Went for a run on Friday night.  Glanced down at the watch just as the 3 mile mark came up.  6.48 for the mile.  6.48?  Where did that come from?  That’s getting to be like the old days.  Obviously, at this point I had to keep the tempo up (hadn’t even realised I was going for a good tempo run).  At the end of the run, I had 6 miles in the bag at an average of 6.48 minutes per mile.  Absolutely chuffed.  Gets the urge going to look up some running dates for the diary instead of just sportives.  Clearly, the cycling is helping the running and vice versa (although Mark will tell you you that cycling training does not make you a better runner – not convinced).

Coasting along without a care

And so to Saturday and the Combat Stress 5K in Glasgow Green.  This run is organised by John Henderson, a fellow member of Gio’s in the Springburn Harriers.  We did this run 2 years ago, and my boy, Ewan (then aged 6) did the run.  A slight stitch early on left him having to walk a little early on, but he then did brilliantly and finished in just over half an hour.  A great achievement.

This year’s event was very well attended and again Gio was in attendance, looking to run close to 20 mins.  Ewan was back for a 2nd bash, and this time I had my Garmin to get an official clocking of his time.  Yes, it’s 5k but I work in miles.  I couldn’t believe it when I saw the wee fella do mile 1 in 8.07.  Great guns for an 8 year old.  On he pushed and 8.10 for mile 2 was again brilliant.  The wee chap was blowing now but kicked on and put in a 3rd mile of 7.50, and a sprint finish to take the acclaim of the crowd saw him finish in 25.06 with an average of 8.01 minutes per mile.  What an absolute star.

Gio dallied along a little and finished just in just over 20 mins (with a 6.23 average).  Had he known the time, he says he could have given it that little extra push.  This from the man whose 10k PB is 40.00.  When will he learn?  Dig in – fight!

I’m sure he was leaving a little in the tank for the  next day’s big cycle – a 4th straight ride over the Duke’s Pass.  If Ian’s along, the post will arrive soon after the run.  Otherwise, there’ll likely be a few days delay…..

Tubby vs the Big Beasts

When it comes to writing blog posts Ian is straight out of the blocks.  For the rest of us, not quite so good.  So here is the training entry for the Sunday that Ian was going to be doing until he was alerted to the condition of his tights – ripped.

Me, Sam, Tubs and David and the route was as the previous week.  Tubby was upset at the blog title – “Rolling with the Big Beasts”, so he came buzzing ready to give it some welly.  He also took the sheen off David’s new shiny bike with a new trimmed down steed himself.

Tubby and the big beast

The whole Duke’s Pass ride is a beauty on many levels.  It splits into comfortable, manageable sections.

Section 1 – Rolling to Aberfoyle.  Come July, 7 of us will be looking to sit tight together and share the burden of riding 100 + miles every day for 9 days.  Keeping it together and learning to conserve energy in the pack is a must.  The first 18 miles to Aberfoyle from Strathblane easily allow everyone to sit together, rolling at a nice pace and taking turns at the front.  This was only David’s second time riding amongst a group and I’m sure he appreciated this mainly flat, pacey section.

Section 2 – The Duke’s Pass.  A lovely hill enjoyed by all.  Why?  Is it the generally fine road surface (a bit gnarly at the bottom but

David and Tubs atop the Duke's Pass

really smooth further up)?  The welcoming flat sections after having to push?  The nice scenery?  The general absence of cars?  Probably all of the above.  Tubs, Sam and David pushed on up the hill and I came up behind them.  I passed and Sam came along with me most of the way to the top.  The big fellow remembers last year when he tried to stick with “the G Train” (Gio) up here and died a thousand deaths come the finale (don’t mention the fact that Tubs crested the Crow road before him that day – prickly).  Not long before David and Tubs joined us at the top.

Section 3 – Rolling up and down all the way to Callendar.  Again some great, quiet roads along lochs Achray and Venachar and before you know it we’re in Callendar.  All the team looking good and feeling fine.  (We really could have done with Ian along – he usually has some kind of issue, be it falling off or puncturing or having a bonk, which makes for more interesting copy).

Section 4 – Callendar to Kippen has a bit of incline.  David’s feeling it a touch and falls back a little.  After a quick regroup at Thornhill we push on for the last few miles before the next challenge of the Kippen hill.  It’s a straightforward 2 and 2 here.  Me and Sam push up followed by David and Tubs.  Big Sam looking good – as usual he mentions baked beans.  Apparently, he’s carrying 20 cans of baked beans on his back that I’m not – I should try it some day.  Perhaps instead of me bringing the beans along, he could try and leave them at home for a change?  Whatever – Sam and his beans make it the top and in good shape.  There’s a bit of breeze getting up now and it’s getting cold so we push on to Fintry and wait there.  Tubs rolls up and David a little bit later.  All set for section 5.

Section 5 – The Crow Road.  The wind is beginning to whip up now.  Waiting at Fintry a couple of riders go by – targets.  They get a good lead on us and it might be a push to catch them on the Crow, but I’ll certainly be giving it a go, by George.  At the bottom of the Crow, Tubs isn’t even interested in pushing on and Sammy shouts “too rich for me” at the first steep incline on the bend.  I’m on my own with the two riders ahead.  I give the legs a good squeeze (feeling much more energised that last week when the Crow was a real toughy) and pass one then the other with plenty to go.  Really windy now and a heavy fog up the top of the hill.  The average speed coming down the hill is a good 10 mph slower than last week.  All because of the wind.

Section 6 – Lennoxtown to Strathblane.  The last 5 which can be lovely or a bit torturous depending on your form.  It again ends up with me, Tubs and Sam with a couple of targets to pass.  Sam goes past me on the front, but I take over again on a little uphill section.  He assumes that I have  gone to the front to look the bees knees as we pass the ladies in front – not so.  Just using a bit of spare energy for the incline to help my fellow riders.

And so to a frenetic last mile as Sam powers on down the hill trying to show a little dominance.  However, Tubs and myself are wise to his game and it ends with the 3 of us pelting along almost side by side down to the final roundabout just by the Kirkhouse Inn.  David rolls up soon after, and another team 60 miler is in the bag.  Now for the cake stop (lacking the elegance of Ian’s Saturday stop).  Some of Julie’s (Mrs Sammy’s) mighty fine carrot cake and the always wonderful For Goodness Shakes.  Bring on the next run.