Monthly Archives: June 2012

Dress Down for Dee

Where I work at Lloyds Banking Group we have a dress down day each Friday in our building to collect money for charity. The allocation of the days goes fast at the start of each year but I managed to secure the last Friday before school holidays which seemed like a good option. I persuaded a couple of my colleagues, Derek and Paula to help me rattle the tins at the front door. On top of this I had also arranged a few home bakers to produce some wares to be sold in the staff canteen at morning coffee time.

Derek and I with our collection buckets.

In total we collected a healthy £630 over the course of the day which I have split equally between the two charities. Derek and Paula have also agreed to use their LBG Matched Giving which will double the total raised to £1260.

The Baking Sale

Thanks to my collection team of Derek and Paula as well as the bakers; Julie Cush, Paula (again), Kate Ramsay (cupcake genius), Martin Donnelly (and wife) and Turbine.

 

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Cycling tip #23 – use your head when braking in the rain?

Sunday. Day 2 of the Lakes expedition. After a poor nights kip for some (snoring, oversoft mattress, loud expulsions of windy-pops) it was up and at ’em for breakfast. Various goodies had been acquired/ brought with the team, our milk safe in the fridge overnight thanks to sticky labels (OK, I maybe went a little overboard, but when I was in student residences, milk was always getting nicked). We chatted to a few other folk staying in the hostel who were doing a bit of walking and watching their friend take part in a big swim event later that morning. Breakfast done, we packed up, grabbed our gear from the drying room, spent ages trying to find John’s overshoes in everyone elses bag only for me to find them – in his bag – then we were off. The plan was to head along the “Fred” route and sort of pick up somewhere along the route were we left off to get the other hills done. More parking fun was to ensue, the swimming event and the triathalon meaning that there were people everywhere and not a space to be found. Eventually we found a layby space and decamped, the rain starting to fall as we got kitted out.

shorts

shorts? have you seen the weather?

right, this is where we left the cars…

We set off along the flat route, through Ambleside to the first climb of the day – Holbeck Lane leading to Troutbeck (what great names some of these places have!). I got off to a bad start here, my front mech jamming, unable to swap from the big to the small ring. With no hope of getting up the hill in those gears, I yelled to the others to go on (no, its not another puncture), clipped one foot out, banged my foot on the mech and turned the pedal to get the chain to shift over. Result. The others were quickly vanishing, so I pushed hard to close on them as they toiled up the hill. After a short while I was back in touch, breathing hard as we all slogged up the slope, the occasional car squeezing by us as we made our way further up to the Kirkstone pass. As we climbed, dozens of cyclists (triathletes) started to stream toward us, down the hill. A few “hello’s” from John at the front were ignored (seriouz bizniz this triathllon?), only getting the occasional nod, until, to our surprise, a huge yell of “Guys!” – our very own Gio belting down the hill. We responded with our own cheers and hello’s as he vanished down the hill behind us, and kept plugging away at the hill. Soon we were passing an ambulance attending to an unfortunate triathlete on a corner, a convoy of cars behind us only able to pass us once we’d cleared the accident. We continued upwards, calling out to the steady stream of downward cyclists to watch for the accident, and after thirty or so minutes of climbing we reached the top.

fine_weather

the fine weather

The steep descent required serious braking, sharp corners, oncoming cars and the occasional walking or slow, tired cyclist to watch out for. The slope levelled off, and several miles of flattish roads were ahead, time for the train to come in to play. Sadly this was not to be, as we hit a short rise, my front tyre was looking decidely flat, so I had to stop. Pumped up (slow puncture?) and we moved on, but it wasn’t more than a few miles before I had to stop again for more air. Then again as we turned to climb to Matterdale End. And at the top (well, the first top, there was a second not far ahead). And at the bottom. At least the (pricey) tube I’d bought at the top of Whinlatter had a valve that agreed with my pump. This was getting silly, so a new tube went in. Tyre patches also applied as it was clear the tyre was seriously gubbed, gauging roughly where David had seen air coming out the tyre wall on one of the many previous stops. Patched and tubed, we moved on, this time, my tyre seeming to hold the air without issue, but planningon heading to Keswick to get me a new front tyre to be sure of no further incidents today.

We turned on to the A66, Sam taking the lead, the rest of us following, the road starting to head downhill. We spread out a little, mostly keeping to the left of the white line at the edge of the road to give the fast, overtaking traffic more space. We must have been doing around 25mph when it happened. I was at the back, and suddenly and seemingly in slow motion, I could see Sammy was in trouble – his front wheel slid from under him, tipping him over the bike, his head hitting the tarmac, and he lay there motionless as we all careened to a halt. Bryan got to him first – “don’t move him” I yelled as I got off my bike. “Sammy, you ok?”. A few moments passed. “I think so”. “Can you move?”. “Yeah”. “Help him up, slowly”. Bryan and I helped him to the kerb of the junction we were now at and sat him down. “You alright?”. “Mmm”. I’m no medic, but I’ve got a fair bit of experience of dealing with a postictal Dee, so started to apply some of the cogntive checks I’d picked up over the years. “Follow my finger with your eyes”. Left, right, up, down. All seemed well. “Can you move your fingers?”. Yup. “Toes”. Yup. “Anywhere hurting?”. “My head” (surprise). “here” (waist/ hip). “Do you feel sick?”. “No”. So, no concussion (probably?), so far, so good (ish). “What year is it?”. This seemed to pose an issue for a few moments… “2012?”. Ok. “Where are we?”. “The A66, Lake District”. “Who am I?”. “You’re Ian…. I’m feeling a bit funny now”. A quick conflab with the rest – we’re getting him an ambulance, he’s not right and needs a proper medic to check him out. Bryan got on the phone, 999, me using my wee Garmin to call our rough location, getting John to keep him talking, don’t let him fall asleep. Bryan relayed our location, the controller at the other end getting him to ask Sammy his name. He got that right, but was now getting more confused about where we were going, where we’d just been, and was getting cold. I whipped off my jacket for him as Bryan got off the phone. We didn’t have to wait long for the blaring of sirens and the flashing blues as the ambulance arrived. The paramedic took his time to check Sam’s neck, then got him to follow his finger (turning his neck) left then right, head up, chin to chest (neck working ok). “Was he unconscious?”. “Maybe, but only a second or two, can’t be sure”. “OK, seems you won’t need a brace, lets get you in the ambulance”. “where you taking him?”. “Carlisle”. Hmm. “Can you take his bike?”. “I’m not supposed to, but I’m a cyclist too, ok, wait while we get things sorted, then we’ll take it for you”. We took charge of Sam’s car key, took his Garmin for safekeeping, then passed the bike to the ambulance crew, who were quickly off, sirens and lights down the road.

Ok, now what? Back on the bikes? Keep going to Keswick John reckoned, bike shop, ditch bikes, grab a taxi back to the cars. Sound plan. The rain was tipping down, we cautiously made our way along the road, cars dangerously close at times, all of us extra aware of the drains, bulging cats-eyes and any potholes that could lie ahead. The longest four miles ever were ahead of us, the four of us moving in mostly silence, mulling over the recent events. We got there, found the bike shop from the day before, John and Bryan going in to see about a taxi. They were soon out – turns out we’re less than 30 minutes away from the cars, bike shop guy reckons we’d be as quick biking it as waiting for taxi. So a quick refuel with gel/bars and we got ready to set off back up the road. Bryan’s phone went – Sammy! Seems they’d turfed him out of A&E, his ride in the ambulance seeing him mostly recovered, the doc showing more concern over his hip than his head. Good news. Less so for the road, as we were immediately on a hill, working hard to get to the top 4 or 5 miles further on. The rest of the route we fell back into the train, taking our 0.5 mile stints at the head of the group, as we set a quick pace on the favourable roads, some shorter upward hills but a good few downward or easy flat sections allowing us to hit decent speeds all the way back to Ambleside. Ok, where’s the cars? Erm, not sure. Think its this way (stupid Garmin not playing ball with the ‘back to start’ function). An extra loop of Ambleside’s one way system and we hit the right road, a mile or so further on and we were back at the layby and the cars. Ride done. 50 miles (5 or so missing from me stopping my Garmin at the Sammy incident).

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/192728801

suns_out

typical – as soon as we’re done, the sun comes out

A fun drive from Ambleside to the M6 (Sammy’s in-car GPS taking us the ‘scenic route’), and we were soon at Carlisle, picked up a bored (and much better) Sam, only effected by a sore hip and a bit too much daytime TV while he waited for us, and headed home. Curry in Cambuslang rounded off an eventful weekend – not really the 170+ planned for the weekend, and missed out on a chance to try the infamous Hardnot and Wyrnose climbs, but I reckon we’re excused due to all the other hills, weather, punctures, accident, floods and er, hills.

For Want of a Nail (Part one)

For Want of a Nail

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The original plan (well the current original plan which was one of many but don’t let that complicate the story) was simple.  Me, Sammy and David would be meet Ian and John in Coniston at 0930 and start riding soon after.  However, since it was raining (pretty hard) John decided a new jacket was required and Keswick was the place to get it, prompting a change in the start of the ride to Keswick, a place we were due pass through on our ride.  Same ride, different start point……..

The background to this is the weekend just passed was supposed to be the pre-lejog, big 2 hard days in a row cycle to ensure that everyone felt what it was like to get up 2 days in a row and cycle.

Driving down, the call came in from Ian ‘John wants to buy a jacket, going to Keswick for it’, ‘Ok, we will just come there and save a bit of time and start the trip there’ we respond.    Our response is paraphrased, the real response would have involved word like selfish, unprepared, **** (insert swear word here) etc…..  It’s not like rain wasn’t forecast.  However, at the time it seemed like an ok plan.

As we drive into Keswick we spot a bike shop and John’s car.  Ian’s bike is strapped to the back unsecured, we think about taking it to teach him a lesson but think better of it.  Ian’s view of security gets even stranger as he padlocks his carton of milk  to the fridge in the youth hostel for fear of theft.

The rest of us troop into the shop and find John trying on various jackets, posing as if he was on a bike to ensure the sleeves are long enough, this is not a quick process but eventually a jacket is settled upon.  Everyone then has to take a shot of the shops toilet and we are ready to go.  Well nearly, there is a job of driving round Keswick trying to find a non paying parking spot, but eventually we end back in the centre of town at the Pay and Display.  Of course no one has any change for it, but luckily you can phone a number and pay by card.  Great, but seemingly the computerised system doesn’t do ‘Scottish’ and it’s off to the newsagent to buy a packet of mints to get some change.  Nearly there, just the weekly discussion about how many layers to wear, which gloves to use, overshoes or not….  Given that it had been raining for 3 straight days, pretty much meant everything was going to be worn.

We eventually set off about 11:15 and immediately find out that however bad a road is in a car, it’s 10 times worse on a bike.  The roads are in a terrible state, flooding everywhere and rocks and scree all over the road.  We cycle gingerly, not knowing what’s around the corner.  There are no land speed records getting set this weekend.

The 112 mile route we had planned to do has 9 big hills, but although we have the route mapped in Ian and Sammy’s Garmin gps no one is quite sure when the hills are coming.  After about 10 miles Sammy thinks there is a hill coming and having put too many layers on, everyone is already sweating and it’s time for some to come off to help us the hill.  Suitable ready, off we go.  Now what we were expecting was a hill, not a wall that had slightly subsided.  This hill was near vertical, the 25% signs suddenly appearing in view, the recrimination of the route owners began.  ‘You didn’t say it ramped up so quiclky, ya ****’ ‘Is this one of the big ones’ ‘ How long does it go on for’ are the shouts heard.  Nobody knew and quickly no one could speak as everyone used all their energy to keep moving, this hill was tough and it went on for miles.  Some decided that weaving all over the road from side to side lessened the gradient, others decided that nearly falling into a ditch at the side of the road was the way to go.  However, in the end everyone made it up to the top without stopping.  I think it was one of those situations where had one stopped, everyone else would have quickly followed, but no one did, pride forcing everyone onwards.  At the top we re-gathered and had a chat about the experience.  But not for long, it was cold, jackets back on and then down.  Brakes stuck on, this was not an easy descent, windy thin roads with debris everywhere, cramp in your hands as you grip too tightly. But soon we were down and back onto the flat in a group. But not for long.

Onto hill number 2, again no real idea of what to expect, the expression ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’ comes to mind.  This hill is hard but not too hard and has a nicer feel to it, it is semi enjoyable.  We come to the top, stop and take in the view and then quickly get going again.  This descent is better, smoother roads, wider turns and we bundle down and eventually it bottoms out.  However, there are only 4 of us now.  Ian is not with us.  We remember him putting his jacket on but surely it doesn’t take that long. We look back up the hill to try and spot but it’s a long hill and hard to see in the rain.  Eventually a lady in a car stops and tells us that Ian has a puncture.  It’s a relief that we know what’s wrong but know that there could be a wait as Ian wont be in the Guinness book of records anytime soon for the fastest time to change a puncture. And then we wait, and wait, it’s getting cold and eventually the decision is taken to start going back up the hill to help.  We go about half way back up and find Ian.  The puncture has been changed but the valve on tube keeps coming off when getting pumped up.  We get Sammy on the job, he is known as the ‘Mavic man’ after the yellow cars that follow the Tour de France to provide mechanical help.  After a bit of toing and froing it is fixed and we are on our way.  Not for long, we manage another couple of miles and psstt…… Ian’s tyre is down again.  This is not going well.  Another new inner tube, another check of the tyre, it is pumped up and off we go again, all the way back down to the bottom and ready for hill number 3.

Sammy kicks off first, followed by myself and then the other 3 are a bit slow in getting going.  Sammy is setting a good pace but I am keeping him in sight, I check back a couple of times and can see John’s new yellow jacket.  All present and correct.  As the hill ramps up, you start to concentrate to keep going, a steady rhythm is required.  My technique is counting down from 10 to 1, that’s easy, only 10 to do and then start again.  I havent looked back in a while but when I do I dont see anyone but there are a few corners so they might be round one of them.  I keep going.  Eventually I stop just short of the top and decide to wait.  Nothing.  I eventually phone David and find out the bad news, Ian’s tyre is down again.  So I wait and wait.  Eventually, Sammy comes down from the top and we decide to roll back down to help and it’s nearly to the bottom.  It is again fixed, but this is not a good sign, however there is a bike shop at the top of the hill and we will take it in there.  Off we go again, my legs not enjoying the hill the second time around.

We reach the top, where the bike shop and a cafe are situated and Ian goes off to get help.  John and I browse the shop and John decided to purchase another set of gloves to supplement the 3 pairs he is already carrying. ‘Super Waterproof’ or so they claim, they need to be.  Sammy has replanned our route for the rest of the day, taking in most of the big hills but less of the flat in between.  Ian’s tyre has been checked and been given the all clear and we decide to stop for lunch although we barely deserve it.  The standard of lunch is reasonable for a forest cafe but the prices resemble a 3 star Michelin place.  2 soups, 1 baguette, 2 cakes and a drink, £20!

Lunch duly eaten, we set off once again.  The descent is treacherous, water is pouring off the hills making handling tricky, stones everywhere.  We make it to the bottom and guess what?  Ian’s tyre is down again.  This is turning into a nightmare.  We try and work out what to do.  One school of thought is a couple of us to go back and get the cars, but the quickest way is back over the hill we came.  This is rejected due to the danger.  So we decide on fixing Ian’s tyre once again and heading back to the cars a different way involving hill number 2 and hoping for the best.  The trip back to car is fairly uneventfull although hill number 2 seems decidedly harder, although not for David who romps up and over in double quick time.

We make it back to Keswick at 17:32 just in time for the bike shop closing.  Great! No new tyre. And only 45 miles done.

Quickly, we were locked and loaded and off to the Youth hostel.  I think most of us would have preferred the luxury of a B and B and a nice comfy twin room but due to many events in the area, this was all the accomodation we could find.  How bad could it be?  Well in reality, not too bad at all.  We had one room for the five of us, while not exactly Ritz standard was clean and tidy.  The showers were hot and the setting was fantastic.  Life was ok.  Deoderant was sprayed on and we were ready to go out.

On the way out we chatted briefly to a hen party waiting on their lift.  It turned out their lift was the hen herself who didnt drink and who would be taking 2 lots of her friends to the village for her night out.  Sounds great for the hen!

The nearest town is Ambleside, a lovely spot with may fine restaurants.  We decide on the ‘Jade Garden’ for rice and noodles to fuel us for the next day.  It turns out to be a perfunctory by the book Chinese restaurant that wont be winning any awards anytime soon.  However, the chat is good and everyone has enjoyed it so far even given the mishaps that has happened.  It’s all about the journey.

We get back to the Hostel at 22:30 and Ian and David go for a drink as it too early for bed.  The rest of hit the hay and dream of a better second day……TBC

Pun on wetness

The plan – 6 of team DIFD to head down to the Lakes to take on the “Fred Whitton sportive” route on Saturday, an easy 60 on the Sunday. The “Fred” is a tough 112 miles taking in 9 significant climbs, including some of the hardest in the UK with gradients of 25%. The guide to the route uses the words “painfully” and “very, very” an awful lot in front of the word “steep”. So, guess the hills were going to be tricksy… Sunday was to be a recovery day from the significant self-inflicted torture that Saturday was promising to be.

Saturday. 6.45am start. Rain. Lots of it. Mark M had dropped out (needing to get his cycle legs back after his last few weeks of focussing on his marathon training and better guessing the impact of the weather), so 5 of us were heading down in two cars, myself with Big J; Bryan, Sam and David in the other. Gio would be in the same area taking part in a triathalon on Sunday so was going to miss out on today’s fun. Did I mention the rain?

view_from_car

the fine weather

As we got closer to our target (Conniston), John was eyeing the weather from the car, noting how very, very damp the few cyclists we were passing looked and decided that a new waterproof jacket was in order. A quick phone call or two to the other car and a detour to Keswick was made, a bike shop found and John kitted out in new bright yellow Gore jacket. Some swithering over some Gore bib shorts that happened to be a close match for out team kit (decision was we’d come back for them later) and it was back to the cars to find a parking spot somewhere on the Fred route, as the morning was moving on. Seems despite the weather there were a lot of people trying to park.

lost?

we’re not lost, we’re exploring

A brief stop on a quiet lane was rejected as being too close to a river that looked to be already bursting its banks – didn’t want to be paddling back to the cars at the end of the day. More forays along quiet roads, passing through some serious flooding (bow waves and hissing engine from the depth of water) a call was made to just head to Keswick and face the cost of a proper car park. This had its own issues – very little change, so phone based payments attempted (succes for car 1, a jog to the shop for change for car 2 as ‘your network is not compatible with this service’) and we were parked, £7 down each. Waste of cake money…

shorts_or_not

ok, when Ian’s not looking, put a fork in his front tyre…

A quick discussion on gear (long legs, 2 or 3 layers, definately waterproof jackets) and we eventually hit the road on our bikes. First stop, the flood we’d just been through (and back again), with a mix of taking the footpath (still under half a foot of water) or the road (equally flooded), picking our way through the water with care. The ‘train’ moved on, the rain coming down, the spray flying up, the road sodden – water streaming through the ironically named dry-stone walls in various spots, inches of standing water not uncommon, causing us to take to the middle of the road in an attempt to pass on through the shallowest part of the floods.

hill_one

see that hill there? that’s the easy bit

Nine miles done in half an hour (watery roads not condusive to speed) and we were at the first hill of the day – the climb to Honister Pass. A quick stop to shed our jackets (the rain had abated) and we started the climb, all in the small rings as this one of the “painfully” and “very, very” hills. Dodging to the side for a few cars/ bus we pushed upwards, Sam starting to traverse at the steepest section, David having a wobble and near dismount situation with a ditch. I pushed ahead a little to avoid the traversing (extra time on this hill? no thanks!) and reached the top, 2 mountain bikers watching us from a side path. I clipped one foot out to wait for the others right behind me, only for Sam to call “this isn’t the top, keep going” as he pedalled by me, the false peak a short respite only before more climbing to the real top a bit further on.  We regrouped for the descent, as steep as the climb, so hard on the brakes as we headed down, avoiding the gravel and debris washed on to the road by the rain.

descent_honister

Honister descent

back_honister

Looking back toward Honister

Through Buttermere and three miles or so on to Newlands, the second climb of the day. This was ‘easy’, at least compared to the last hill, again everyone climbing roughly together. A brief stop at the top to regroup, warnings to take care on the way down and we were off.

top_newlands

Having read the weather report, Sam wore his swimming goggles

I was last to go, but punctured nearly immediately. I pulled over, the others fast vanishing ahead. I started to change the tube, tyre half off, old tube out, new tube in. A van stopped, asking if I was ok, I was – just tell the guys up ahead I’ve got a flat. Pumped it up. As I unscrewed the pump, the valve started to come out, deflating the tyre. Bah. Rescrewed the valve, pumped it up. Unscrewed the pump. Valve came out again. By this point the others had decided to come kick my ass for wasting their time, getting chilled in the rain. Dissing the pump, a gas canister inflated the tube, and we were off, making our way to Braithwaite. However, we’d barely gone on a mile or two and I’d punctured again (2). This time Sam helped me change the tube (dont want the new guy pinching another tube), pump still de-valving the tube so another gas inflate, and we were again on our way. We were soon at our third climb – Winlatter. A gentler climb this time, but we’d hardly got a few hundred metres before I had puncture number 3. Sam and Bryan were well ahead, but John and David were stopped with me. John took charge of this change, taking the tyre completely off the rim, checking it over carefully and getting me to do the same, David finding the hole in the tube to see if we could find something that was causing these punctures. Nothing. New tube, inflated. Ready to go again, as Bryan and Sam came back down to see what was taking so long. Up the hill we went, nothing too steep, but a fairly long slog. The promised lunch stop would be at the top as well as a chance to get my tyre checked over in the bike shop that was there too. We got to the top with no issues, I took my bike into the shop, the mechanic taking a look at the tyre and tube. His verdict? You’ve been unlucky, can’t see anything wrong, avoid the gravel. So purchased a couple of new tubes from the shop and off to lunch (and cake).

lunch

soup, sandwich, coffee and cakey

cakey!

best £2.20 I spent all day

Ah, lunch. Baguettes, soup, coffee, water and cake. Toilet stop. A quick chat to a mountain biker who had four punctures in a day (ridiculous! no-one is that unlucky…) then back out into the rain. Down the hill we went, the wind and rain battering us as we went. As we hit the valley floor, I was again feeling too much road through my bars – flat number four! Unbelievable. Another new tube, exasperation all round and a change of plan. Time was against us (it was nearly 5pm already) so a quick try to get a lift for me and my ailing bike from a couple in a van failing (“sorry, we just live over there”), it was change the tube then a few miles along the valley floor, back over Newlands, to get to the cars. The second time up the climb seemed tougher, particularly as I was watching my front tyre, concerned it was going to go at any moment. David pushed to the front, stretching himself to hit the top first, the rest of us soon there. Me puncture free so far. Down into Braithwaite, turning back to Keswick, the train making great time, the wind now helping us and the roads relatively clear of debris and floods – the ‘best’ bit of the day, a nice fast section for a half dozen miles. Soaked, not as tired as we expected, not even half the mileage we’d planned, we were back at the cars.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/192728842

We packed up, made a quick stop at the Co-op for supplies and headed off to the Youth Hostel. Hidden behind Ambleside up a serious hill, this YH used to be a mansion. We checked in (here’s your key, bike shed round the back, drying room in the basement), claimed beds in the 3 bunk-bed room, grabbed a shower (or trickle depending on shower cubicle choice) and put our wet gear in the drying room. The bikes were locked in the shed, a quick chat to a hen party (you chose to stay here? for a hen night??) and we piled into Sam’s car to head to Ambleside for a Chinese. Not the best grub, but plenty of it, a beer for David and me, water for everyone else, then back to the YH. A quiet pint (the YH had a small bar in reception) for me and David, everyone else off to bed. We finished our drinks and headed to bed too.

The morning would be bringing better weather (right…) and a second crack at the Fred to finish the hills we skipped. A sort of enjoyable day (some good hills done), nice lunch, bad luck on punctures, rotten weather, ok room, passable dinner and my first sleep on a top bunk in 25 years. Part 2 (Sunday) soon.

Fast Fathers Day Fifty Six

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog recently so decided to throw in a few words about Sunday’s fast run from the Clubhouse. It being Fathers Day we decided to go for an early start but after some discussion agreed 8am was civilised.

The usual four (myself, J, Tubs and Gio) headed off from Gio’s at a couple of minutes past 8 when a shout goes up that Young Dave had just pulled up. A quick about turn and a five minute wait til the wee fella got himself sorted and the train of five was off.

We headed off over the well cycled roads through Kirkie and Kilsyth making good time with an average of just over 19mph due to a slight tailwind. It’s a very strange feeling not to turn up the Takmadoon Road and our nemesis climb, and instead to carry on towards Banknock.

Onwards through Denny and into Stirling where we passed the start of the Trossachs Ton Sportive. As we left Stirling on The Carse road we could see some groups from the Sportive in the distance, heads down. The DIFD Train set of after them.

We passed fewer small groups before realising one group of three had tagged on to the back of our train for the ‘free speed’ a group provides. I got chatting to one of the guys for a few miles and it turned out they were from the registration team of the Sportive so set off last and enjoy doing the route reeling in the slower cyclists all the way round!

Only when we split with the Sportive route did we realise that Young Dave had dropped off the back. We waited a few seconds for him to arrive and headed off up the Kippen Hill towards Fintry, ignoring the signs warning of closed road ahead which wasn’t a great move. I decided to try the hills staying in the big ring at the front so kept a good speed up through the village. When we arrived at the road closed signs it looked ok to proceed as there was Tarmac there just not perfect. Further up even that disappeared and we ended up on the base of the road, which wasn’t doing the wheels and tyres any good. Soon we topped out and enjoyed the decent into Fintry on the uneven surface. Stirling Council take note!

A quick stop in Fintry to take on some food and drink, we discussed the possibility of adding a few miles via Milngavie but decided to head home and enjoy being spoiled! We headed off up The Crow with Tubs and I deciding to try the climb in the big ring whilst J and Gio trying to do a high cadence easy gear climb. The decent into the Lennoxtown was a bit hairy with about a dozen sheep loose on the road making it very stop/start after the car park.

On the road over to Torrance my Garmin battery died meaning I only got 51.8 miles registered rather than the full 56 but we managed to achieve the 19mph average for the full run. A smashing route, I must say. Apologies for the lack of photos!

Garmin output : http://connect.garmin.com/activity/190026982

Headwinds and rain are such fun

Solo training for me this weekend – the rest of the team had sorted out a Sunday cycle (most doing a Stirling loop of 50-60-ish miles, Mark M mistakenly signing up for the Trossachs Ton thinking we were all doing it), but I was meeting friends on Sunday, so Saturday was the day for me. The weather was up to expectations – constant drizzle/ rain and driving winds – a fine Scottish June day. I’d planned on just doing a 50-ish ride, heading to Eaglesham and Stewarton and back. So, winter gear on (waterproofs, overshoes), a few treats stuffed in my pockets and I headed off. The first few miles heading out of Glasgow started with a minor mis-hap – my bottle jumped out of its cage on a rough bit of road, though I hadn’t noticed until a car following me gave me a beep, wound the window down and let me know. I headed back to recover it, only to find it had split, spilling all its contents away. A quick stop at a newsagent to grab some lucozade and I was on my way again. However, the lucozade bottle was rattling around in the cage, not very secure. So, a quick stop at Clarkston cycle centre for a new bottle (£4, with a free tube of ‘Zero’ electrolyte tabs) was in order. Bottled up, on my way again, and the rain was coming down, the wind picking up as I made my way through Waterfoot and in to Eaglesham. Luckily for now it was a tail wind, so I forged on, slowly getting wetter as the rain worked its way through the not as waterproof as I thought gear I had on. Undettered by such nonsense as a bit of water (it wasn’t that cold) made my way up to Eaglesham moor, the hill no longer much of a challenge. The wind farm was lost in the drizzle, and had a bit of fun with my glasses steaming up on some of the short climbs. Had to stop a couple of times to de-mist before the fast descents to avoid complete loss of vision, and had a few dicey moments with some aquaplaning on the wetter sections of the road.

broken bottle

Broken bottles are a known cycling hazard

I was soon on the A77, hitting the cycle path running parallel to the main road, finding my brakes had lost a fair amount of their effectiveness when I came to a not very quick halt to avoid a Range Rover coming out of a junction. Tempering my speed for the next few miles while I adjusted to the extreme wet braking required, still made reasonable time to the turn to Kilmaurs. The road to this small town passed quickly, but as I turned northwards to Stewarton, discovered that the wind was now right in my face. The wind and driving rain made the next few miles hard work, my speed dropping to below 10mph on some flat sections due to the strength of the wind. Fine training I suppose, but not good for the average. I made my way beyond Stewarton, through Dunlop and on to Lugton, hoping to get a quick refuel at Pat’s Pantry, only to find it shut – no roll & sausage or cakey for me today. Bah.

drizzly windmill

a fine photo of windmills and drizzle

On to Barrhead, passing the Balgray reservoir and a gentle climb into Newton Mearns, soggy shoes by this point, but not a big issue as the rest of the ride was mostly downhill. Racing buses down Pollockshaws road is always a fun way to end a ride, weaving by queuing cars as I went, knowing a hot shower was not far away. Finally I turned on to Clyde street for the last stretch home – in to the flat, out of the rain, out of the wet gear, most of which needed ringing out over the bath. Wettest rider ever, but strangely fun. At least it wasn’t freezing.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/189615793

Not a blistering quick run (15.7mph avg), but a good workout and preparation for the inevitable fine British weather we’ll experience on the LEJOG.

Race Night update

The final money from the DIFD Race Night last month has now been added to our justgiving site – a grand total of £3,403 was raised. We are overwhelmed by the generosity of friends, family and neighbours. Again, thank you all.

Bleuch! Na Ba!

Sunday 3rd June. Bryan had headed home after the previous day’s sportive, but John, Sammy and myself had met my brother Dominic in Inverness for dinner, then stayed at a B&B in Contin to allow us to take on the UKs biggest road bike climbing challenge – the Bealach Na Ba.

11/10

11/10 – thats got to be good?

This ‘road’ is around 630m over a mountain, starting from sea level and hitting 20% gradients with a series of straights and hair-pin bends. On a single track road with tourists a plenty to contend with over a near 90 mile route, the day after a fairly hard 98 miles. It was going to be an interesting day.

breakfast

mmm, greasy goodness

We started with a cooked breakfast, not ideal cycling fodder, but enjoyable just the same, then loaded the car and set off for Kinlochewe. We were soon there, having driven down the hill at the start of our route, not looking too bad, but we’d soon get the feel for that part of road on the bike once out of the car. We parked up, stocked up on eats and refilled our bottles and got on the same bit of road we’d just driven in the car.

Achnasheen-ish

Up the hill we went, John falling off the back, so Sammy, then myself reached the top, a brief wait for John at the summit and an adjustment of his handlebars before we got on our way again. The road was mostly flat, but the wind was against us making us work hard until Achnasheen where we turned south-westwards. The wind more or less behind us, we started to make more comfortable progress towards Kirkton and Lochcarron. I fell off the back a bit, dawdling on a part of the single track road resulting in me being separated from the others by a car overtaking. We regrouped in Lochcarron itself, a toilet break and bottle fill stop before pressing on up the short hill then down into Ardarroch. I again lost touch with the others on the descent (me no likey-fast downhills), but we regrouped before the main event of the day, the Bealach. Far from being the ‘quiet road with hardly any traffic’ that the ‘best cycle climbs’ book claimed, there seemed to be a steady flow of cars and motorbikes passing us as we took our obligatory photos by the sign at the bottom of the hill.

ahead there be dragons…

a large native?

a large native?

We set off, John and Sammy putting in an impressive pace upwards, mine more reserved, with a quick stop to adjust my left shoe (I’d loosened it off to relieve my achilles) as a group of motorbikers passed me. The hill rose steadily, being a ‘reasonable’ climb for the first mile or so, but contending with cars overtaking or coming towards you down the single-track road making it a greater challenge.

The toughest part of the climb, just before the hairpins began, I passed by a fellow cyclist, on foot, pushing his bike upwards. Determined not to meet his fate, I worked the pedals hard, ignoring my twinging achilles, focussing on John and Sammy on the ‘flat’ part of road ahead (not at all flat, but compared to the incline I was on, it looked to be blessed relief). This was not made any easier by motorhomes, really too wide to be taking this route, coming down the hill towards me, not stopping at all, putting me in fear of being forced off the narrow road. As I reached the hairpins (“if you’ve got this far, you’ve made it”), ushering following cars by me on the sweeping turns, things again got tricky, cars I’d just been passed by stopping for cars coming downward, offering me little choice but to re-overtake them to avoid stopping (stop and you’ve no chance of getting going again on this kind of hill). A few more hairpins and what felt like a level piece of road (its funny how the steeper parts effect your perception) before the final incline and I made it to the top, about 45 minutes of slog done.

from the top

view from the top

A few photos to be taken, I grabbed a tourist sporting a nice digital SLR to take a photo of all three of us, only to find this chap had an eye infection and could barely see the screen on my tiny compact camera. He did well regardless, the photo of the 3 of us not suffering from his lack of vision.

difdx3_top_of_Bealach

three fresh faced cyclists at the top of the Bealach

dog on cairn

the ‘amusing dogs on cairn’, so i couldn’t get a piccie of the official height.

The chill was setting in quickly, so we set off, the promise of fish and chips in Applecross ahead of us. The descent was as treacherous as the ascent, winding down the hill, oftentimes difficult to see any oncoming traffic, and still cars and motorbikes passing in both directions. We parked up at the Applecross inn, fish & chips ordered in the packed bar, as we slowly warmed up. The food arrived quickly, chatting about the various ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ of the drivers who helped or hindered us in our recent climb of the Bealach as we ate.

Applecross

Applecross over the bay

All too soon we were off on the road again, the next 45 miles or so starting with around 30-odd miles along the coast road. Sounding quite promising (coast, by the sea, its going to be flat…) but it soon turned into a hellish series of rises and descents with little-to no flat sections in between, the wind forever working against you. Sammy pressed on, seemingly unaffected by the Saturday or todays exertions, whilst myself and John were feeling the miles, John in particular. Our attempts to work as a duo were barely effective, the constant switch from ascent to descent making it hard to draft at all. Eventually John gave the team order “push on yourself, I’m done”, so I set off “to catch Sammy”. Right.

A few miles later I caught up with a lady cyclist just as she crested a hill, chatting briefly with her about how hard this section was “worse than the Bealach” she reckoned. At that moment, I was in agreement. Some of the short hills here were incredibly steep, making them feel not so short as you had to work hard to keep any sort of speed on them, resorting to the lowest gears frequently. There was barely any respite to be had from trying to speed down the slopes in an attempt to take as much momentum as possible up the inevitable next hill. I left her on the next slope, slowly making my way onward. I stopped at a junction, unsure of the way, and John was soon in sight, pointing me the right direction. We climbed a few hills, me making a bit more headway on the upward sections, John catching me on the descents. On one such descent, the poor road surface, speed and a BMW saw John barely avoiding a skid into the oncoming car, both braking hard to prevent the collision. We soon hit the main road, Sammy waiting on us. I barely stopped, the midgies were out in force, homing in on me if I dared to present a stationary target.

Torridon

looking back at 10 miles to go…where’s that downhill bit?

Only “a couple more hills” lay between us and the end, so I took the first with Sammy, John falling behind. We took a few turns about, before the descent into Torridon saw Sammy leaving me well behind.  I plodded on, taking a brief stop to take some photos (and some cakey-treats of course), seeing John in the distance I turned the camera to capture him toiling along the slow rise of the last miles. The ‘its downhill for the last 6 miles’ turned out to be only the last 3 miles, making each of the preceeding “80s” miles that wasn’t downhill torment. Soon the downhill arrived, rain falling in the distance, so I pushed to get back quickly hoping to avoid any downpour. I arrived at the car, Sammy sat waiting on the tailgate just as the rain began. John was soon with us, and we started to load the bikes, hearty congratulations all round for the days efforts.  The rain stopped, the midges out in force, so I sought refuge in the car, as a cloud of the beasts homed in on me, the less ‘tasty’ of the group completing the loading of the bikes, the already in car midges suffering my wrath as I swatted them as they landed to try and bite any exposed skin.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/185542792

Miles done – 89.4, climbed 2,103m, midgey bites 14+. Itchy.

And for those who’ve travelled the A9 to Inverness and been told of the’soldiers head’ in the rock, but never been able to see it,  here is is, in all its ‘not very impressive at all’ glory:

soldiers head

the ‘famous’ landmark of the ‘what do you mean you can’t see the soldiers head’ near Slochd summit

 

Cairngorm Classic

Saturday 2nd June. Aviemore-ish for the Cairngorm Classic sportive. Some wag obviously thought that having an organised 100 mile ride in and around Aviemore could only work if they started from the ski-station car park. Which is at 632 m. On top of a mountain. We arrived in 2 cars, Bryan and Sammy in one, Big J and myself in the other.

carpark

the long walk from the car to registration/ starting line

First thing we found after parking was that being on top of a mountain in June at 8.30am is decidely chilly. We were in summer gear, not our winter layers. Still, it was bound to warm up, or so we told ourselves as we checked in and picked up our ‘dibbers’ (timer chips you wear on a lanyard round your neck). We returned to the cars, swapped to cycle shoes, blew up my front tyre (the valve flew off, most irritating, needing a new tube), swithered over long sleeves/ leggings then made our way to the start. After accosting another cyclist to take our photo, we moved to the start, dibbed our dibbers and started off for about 7 miles of downhill, the air chilling us as we zoomed down the hill. It was hard not to think at this point that you’ll be slogging back up this same hill at the end, after having cycled for 90+ miles with 5 odd hours in the saddle.

4xDIFD

Smiles and “sunshine”. Its cold on that there hill.

We split as we descended, Sammy vanishing in the distance, John slipping behind, though I could see Bryan just ahead of me. He stopped as the hill was coming to the end, wondering where John had got to, so I pulled over too. A big train of about 2 dozen cyclists whisked by, John yelling “come on” from within. Bryan and I shot off in pursuit, but had no chance of catching them. I think I struggled after the group longer than Bryan, but was soon in a smaller group on the road around Nethy Bridge, which was swallowed up by another, this second group had Bryan in its midst. 2/4 of our team back together as we hit a flatter part of the route. A few miles later, John appeared ahead, slogging it out solo and was absorbed into our train. 3/4. At about 20 miles we started a climb. I’d slipped toward the back of our train, and as we began the ascent the different climbing abilities of the folk to my side became problematic, 2 riders clashing, one coming off in front of me causing me to wobble into the verge to avoid falling on top of him, as he yelled his disgust at the other guy who’d swung accross and clipped his wheels. As a result of my near stop, I’d fallen off the back of the train, now a good hundred yards further up the hill. I struggled to regain the back of the pack, pushing hard to try and catch them, but working solo was hard going. I finally caught them, slotted in at the back, tired from the chase, just as we hit a steep hill. Not having any time to recover, I was soon adrift on the climb, and as the road split (50 milers left, us 100 milers to the right) I was again a good 100 yards behind on a slight incline. It was no use trying again to catch them, but I tried for a mile or two to regain the group before giving up. The next dozen or so miles I spent working my way along the route solo, hoping for a train to come by, but with no luck. The occasional fellow solo rider or duo would appear ahead of me, but few if anyone came by me.

some hills in scotchland

view from a cake break

I soon hit a feed station, and being on my own, stopped to grab a few cakes, hoping that I could pick up a group, but most other folk arriving were in ones or two’s. I set off after a minute or two, slogging on, sighting an orange top in the distance as a target. As I approached him, another rider slowly worked by me, so I tagged on his tail. He moved out immediately, looking back at  me unhappily, so I backed off and let him go on. Odd fellow. Shortly after, a group of half a dozen Dunfermline CC started to overhaul me, so I asked if I could join, which they were happy to allow. Two of their group were around my level, the others either tired or less able when it came to the short climbs, so I put in my fair share at the front and we made good progress once I’d worked out their odd system (starting at the back they’d move to the front, overtaking the train on the outside before settling on the front, soon followed by the man behind). There was little chit chat, but a good atmosphere between them, and we worked together for a dozen or so miles until we hit the next feed station at around the 60 mile mark. Here the others were waiting (20 minutes it seemed), I thanked my temporary team-mates for the previous miles, and  quickly grabbed a few bits of millionaire shortbread and a banana before we set off as 4/4 Team DIFD. We worked as a team up the hilly section that followed, pushing hard into the wind, on the drops to avoid as much wind as we could. We were making good time, overtaking many solo or duo riders as we went, the only event of note was my chain deciding to jump off as we piled down a hill which was soon sorted.

Just after Boat of Garten a “10 miles to go” sign signalled that we’d soon be on the final stretch (uphill all the way, joy), and the DIFD train had picked up a couple of extras. One kept with us as the route began to slope upwards, taking his turn at the front (but pushing a bit too hard) as we slogged on. As the hill began proper, I was done, my earlier efforts trying to catch trains and solo-ing so many miles taking their toll, so I told the rest to go on. I could see them working their way by a few struggling folk as I followed slowly, still overtaking a few other cyclists myself as I went, with the occasional person walking up the hill. As I crested the first rise, took a quick cakey break (been carrying all that food, may as well eat it before I finished) andgrabbed a few quick photos before zooming up the last few bits of hill (cake power!).

up to cairngorm

target one, post cakey-break

Overall, a hard but fun ride, 17.6mph average, around 5:35 hours to do the 98.2 miles for me (the others around 20 minutes quicker).

cynthia

done. Now where’s me free pasta?

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/185542838