Author Archives: ian

LEJOG – done

done

done

Its now the day after we completed our journey from the very bottom to the top of the country, which we rounded off with a small party in Aviemore with family and friends. The last day of cycling, 65 miles from Tongue to ‘JOG’ was a tough day, physically due to the many steep hills, and emotionally as we reached our target knowing that the one person we were doing this in memory of isn’t with us any more. I can’t really express how I felt as we reached the small post marking the end of our journey, but I think this sums it all up in some way:

Do it for Dee

Every turn of the crank, every push, every pull,
Every inch, every yard, every mile on the road,
Every second, every minute, every hour on the bike,
I’ll do it for Dee.

Every hill, every climb, all the work to the top,
Every straight, every turn, each bend in the road,
Every ache, all the pain, the hurt and the loss,
I’ll do it for Dee.

I can’t fail, or falter nor give up this ride.
I won’t quit or stop, nor forget why I’m here.
I’ll get to the end, no matter the cost.
I’ll do it for Dee.

Thank you all for reading, donating and keeping our spirits up. We all did it for Dee.

 

27th July – 4th August 2012. 9 days, 1000 miles.

Delia

Dedicated to the memory of Delia Catherine Thompson, nee McGivern.
17th June 1974 – 14th August 2011.
Our Wee Dee.
Sadly missed, never forgotten.

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LEJOG day 8

Our cunningly arranged early breakfast was somewhat spoiled by there also being a similarly early one organised for a bus load of tourists. Never mind, at least we had a ring-fenced pot of porridge only for our group.

nessie

Davo forgoes the bike for a more local form of transport

Van loaded, bikes quickly cleaned up and eventually we hit the road. The sun trap that was the hotel car park lulled us in to thinking there was fine weather ahead, but the haugh was rolling in over Loch Ness and the air chilly as a result.

The team, just outside Inverness

We powered along the loch-side, sun now coming out, for a rendezvous with my brother Dominic, astride a mountain bike that had seen better days – slurry lubricant on the chain was the teams’ best guess.

Dom with the team – the extra team shirt was lost in the post

We headed slightly off-route, using Dom’s local knowledge to get to a decent bike shop for a fix for Mark’s front mech’ – Jerry from Bikes of Inverness to the rescue and we were soon back on the road.

Jerry fix-it

Leaving the city, we made our way towards Beauly then on to Muir of Ord, meeting the van for a fuel stop. Dominic turned back at this point (Olympics telly to catch up on), around 15 miles done with us (and another 15 into the wind and uphill to get home).

On we went passing Conon Bridge, through Dingwall, a slight mismatch between mine and Sam’s Garmins causing a bit of a stir before ‘this way is north’ lead us on to Evanton and towards Alness.

I reckon its this way?

A brief stint on the A9 came to a welcome end as we turned off on to the B9176 and a great climb up and over Struie hill – fantastic scenery, views and not a bad hill to cycle up – just a slow, steady incline with very little harsh gradients.

the pay-off for going up Struie Hill – great view

We soon reached the top, and after a brief stop at the view-point, headed down, a glorious descent, passing through Ardgay before meeting Cameron and Mark in Bonar Bridge for lunch. Bridge Burgers and macaroni cheese and perhaps the odd pint were consumed, bought from the pub where a local lad Ben threw us a few quid for the charity (thanks!).

tired

8 days in the saddle, not enough sleep combined with a heavy lunch and a bit too much cakey take their toll on our Big J

Just before we were to leave for lunch, a Canadian couple, tour-cycling asked about a local bike shop (none for miles) as they’d no spare tubes. We gave them a couple, Michael assuing them that the thinner road tubes would be ok in their slightly wider tyres. As a thanks, they donated to our charity (thanks Paul & your wife – we didn’t catch her name).

Canadian Paul – top bloke and fellow cyclist with our Davo.

Off we went, Inveran and Invershin, another climb through to Lairg an then Altnaharra, now on single-track roads, stopping for our final refuel at the Crask (?) Inn, fellow cyclists Ally from Skye and Axel from Germany applauding from the beer garden as we pulled up.

Skye’s Ally

Germany’s Axel

We chatted briefly before starting of on the final 20 or so miles between us and the end, the wind in our faces. We dug in, switching to single file to minimise the work as we made our way up and down the seemingly endless hills before us.

top

the top at last. And no, I didn’t just fall off my bike as I rolled up to take this shot. That’s just a wicked rumour spread by the other guys.

At the top of the final hill, we stopped to take some photos, the clouds hanging low over the distant mountains. We rolled down the hill to meet the van, Tongue barely a mile away, to be told the hostel was not up to scratch, so a quick negotiation was made by Mark with a local B&B and we were sorted.

Day 8 done. 113 miles done.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/206198873

Only 65 to go.

LEJOG day 7

A fine nights sleep in the hostel for some, a night in the van for David (snoring avoidance) and a slight change to our routine to become more efficient (and to fit in with hostel breakfast-time policy) by packing the van first, then eating breakfast. Today we were met by Epilepsy Scotland’s Robyn, a companion via email over the last few months,  to see us off in person. The swarming midges outside forced us inside for a few quick photos, but not before we were their breakfast. Robyn headed off, we got on the road soon after, a few of us circling round the hostel driveway in a vain attempt to avoid being bitten while the last few folk pumped tyres or grabbed essentials from the van.

ES Robyn with team

Epilepsy Scotland’s Robyn with team DIFD

We hit the A82 with our new domestique, Michael M, fresh from a 36 mile cycle to meet up with us. Sam took the lead as we single-filed it along the busy road at an easy pace, taking in the miles as the day started with sunshine looking likely. We’d not gone far when the first incient of the day was to occur. Moving out slightly to avoid the bulging cats-eyes at a parking spot, front-man Sam was cycling towards a large crow , which appeared to be resting on the road – normally such beasts will quickly fly out of the way, but this one seemd to have a grudge of some sort and barrelled into him instead of flying in the other direction. Bouncing off Sam, it hit the deck, and the following train took evasive manouvres, narrowly missing it. As we moved on, comments flew forward – “you pull that out of your pocket to throw at us Sam?”, “hmm, does that mean I’m the only one to have pulled a bird on this trip?” came the reply.

Onwards. Next issue – stopping at a contraflow there was a bang, this time Sam’s rear was flat. Gio ran a quick recce, and reckoned nipping through the lights, we could perform bike surgery on the coned off side of the road. He and Sam went to work, fixing the tyre and we were on our way. The road was damp, but the occaisional splash of water couldn’t change the fact that the weather was turning out to be near prefect for cycling.

cones

Gio & Sam, bike fix safely behind the cones

Next stop – second breakfast (or first lunch) at the Green Welly Shop at Tyndrum, where we ran in to some JOGLE cyclists (North to South). Nice lads from Devon, raising money for Macmillan – we exchanged a few cycling pleasantries, swapped tales of each others road ahead and got Cameron to take a quick set of piccies.

LEJOGvJOGLE

LEJOG meets JOGLE

Scones, soup and various other cakey consumed, we got back on the bikes and on up the hill beyond to Rannoch Moor. The climb was taken easily (big ring not quite all round), the occasional passing car or parked up tourist cheering us on.

up

Going up

team

the team at the top-ish of Rannoch Moor

 

Once at the top, just as we were going to start our descent into Glen Coe, Sam’s rear tube went bang again. Repair, this time replacing the (torn it was discovered) tyre.

zz

Brother’s McGivern catch up on some sleep while tyres are a changing

Just as the repairs were done, a large squad of Hummersknott CC, also on a LEJOG, pulled up alongside us.

 

Hummersknott n DIFD

team DIFD pass some time with Hummersknott CC members

Hello’s and chit-chat ensued before we all moved on downhill, DIFDers nipping by the ‘knott guys and gals on the descent – we were in more of a hurry than them, covering a few more miles per day.

Our next target – Fort William, and second lunch. The promise of a fine feast lay ahead of us – Cameron’s sister Isobel had agreed to feed and water us, and we soon arrived to an excellent spread of sarnies, cakes & pancakes which was scoffed down in short measure “the best lunch we’ve had” – many thanks Isobel.

DIFD with Isobel

the team with Isobel, Ben Nevis in the background

Off we set – well, nearly, Big J had a front puncture. Fixed in quick time, we headed off for the last 50 miles of the day, revived from our hefty sandwich consumption. A brief stop at the Commando memorial was our only pause as we piled on to the last planned van meet-up at Fort Augustus. A quick cakey break and back in the saddle, the realisation that we were running behind resulting in a blistering pace being set – the team stepped up and everyone took their turn at the front, the switches smooth and methodical allowing us all to work the train along at 20mph+ on the flats and lesser hills. We covered the last 20 miles in under the hour to be met by friends and family in the hotel car park.

team done

135 miles and still fresh

Day 7 done. 135 miles (171 for Michael!).

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/205875670

 

 

 

 

LEJOG day 6

Another day, another ton+ miler ahead of us. Rain. Looking out of the hotel room as we headed down for breakfast did not make the day ahead appear to have much promise on the weather front. Regardless, breakfast was consumed, complementary coffee from the proprieter was well received by the coffee fans in the team. Our host, Ian from the Towenhead Hotel, was generous enough to get up and make breakfast early as well as offering us complementary coffee and cake and even knocked £50 quid off the stay just for us – nice one!  End to Enders get this establishment on your accomodation list – a great team who really went the extra mile.  Truly appreciated by all.

By the time we got out to the van to pack our gear, the rain had pretty much stopped, so we got on the bikes and headed off.

playing on the B7037

The road ran alongside the motorway (the old A74 – great fro cycling as it’s almost car free), and we made solid progress, only stopping to switch to waterproofs on/off and the essential occasional toilet stop. The few hills were long and steady rather than anything to tax us, so the miles flew by, and before long we had reached Abington. The rain was still on so a quick coffee stop was called for, the van parked up next to a bike friendly hotel, the Abington. We dived in, coffee, hot chocolate and scones ordered in swift measure. The chap who served us fired on the heating to help us dry off, so bonus points to them.

hi tech camera discussions distracting M & C from scone scoffing

secondscones

Second scones? Moi?

Second scones ordered and demolished, the rain easing off, we headed off again, traffic quiet roads all the way, our trek only broken by the inevitable jackets on/off and toileting.

Galston was soon reached, our lunch stop for the day with extra company in the form of Mrs Bryan and his dad, Charlie. A quick scout around town and we settled on the Aroma cafe, piled in and ordered soup, sandwiches, baked potatoes and similar fare, coffees, cappuccino and irn bru.

aroma_1

happy team well fed, with Stephanie and Charlie

The friendly staff swept into action, providing our grub with only minor issues on a coronation chicken panini, quickly sorted (and eaten by us anyways). And then cakes. Oh what cakes – baking heaven.  Excellent lunch.

aroma_2

The Aroma cafe crew

coffee lessons

G-train shows the ladies how to make a real Italian coffee

Mrs Brian had brought more cakey to see us through the next few days, which were loaded onto the van and our goodbyes said.

cakey

Essential cakey supplies replenished

On and up we went, the hill out of town not posing any issue, the weather clearing up as we went. Over the top and down, now on familiar roads round Stewarton and on to Paisley, and the finest descent of the week – a great speedy downhill from the Glennifer Braes into the town. We filtered through town, out onto the Erskine bridge, where Gio got his second puncture of the trip.

G-train puncture #2

Puncture soon changed, and only a few miles to our end point, we moved on, mixing with the rush hour traffic along the A82.

Young Davo was meandering along behind the group when Turbine offered to tow David and Big J back to the main group.  Turbine nearly got a toe in a delicate place as Young Dave motored onto the main group.

Keeping it tight, we climbed the road through Dumbarton, Alexandria and Balloch to the nearby youth hostel. As we turned in to the driveway, a surprise was in store – Mammy Mary and Davo’s kids Emma & Lucy with friend Olivia, along with Mark and Cameron waving flags and cheering our arrival.

day 6 done

the gang with Mammy Mary

Our two day domestique, Mark D was thanked all round for his help over the previous 2 days and we said our goodbyes (with a few nipping to the pub to see him off properly) as we said hello to his ‘stand in’ for the last few days, friend Michael M who’d arrived to drop his bag.

Pub. Dinner. Blog. Day 6 done.

[garmin link will follow!]

Quote of the day – “I was never out of the big ring” (most of us, but in reality I reckon we all used the wee ring once or twice)

Food of the day – tough call between the Townead Hotel breakfast, Abington’s scones and the fine Aroma cafe – my suggestion, take in any of them if you are in the area

Blog fan of  the moment – Fino!

fino_stevie

Fino (right) with Big Irish Stevie (would also be our #fan if he could use the internet)

Downer of the day – Gio’s puncture only 10 miles from home (noisy bridge with no 3G)

LEJOG day 5

Day 5. The day that would see us hitting the overall halfway marker at just shy of 500 miles. As usual a target time of early o’clock was planned, and as usual we didn’t get going for a good 30-40 minutes later. Never mind, Today we had Mark D joining us – a keen cyclist and for the next couple of days a ‘domestique’ for the team (in pro teams the domestiques help the ‘top’ rider win the race by drafting them and generally doing the work).

under starters orders

We set off in high spirits, the previous days 140 miles seeming to not have had any major effects on the group, except for a few aching limbs, par for the course on this LEJOG. Our route out of Lancaster took us down some quiet country roads, Mark D earning his place leading the pack for the most part and before long we were passing Kendal and heading into the Lakes proper, climbing as we went. This constant climbing was soon met with our reward, a long descent into Ambleside. A stop was called, ice cream, photos and toilet break taken.

icey cream all round

The road onward soon began to rise again, the toughest climb of the day on which we were joined by a local mountain biker. Everyone made it up without too much trouble, and the descent into Keswick was a joy, fast downhill and easy bends allowing us to pick up terrific speeds as we went.

our white van men taking a well earned drink

The van was parked up in a pub just outside of town, and we screeched to a stop to decide our next move (lunch). Some quick tinkering was required, so a visit to the local bike shop was first, then lunch in a pub (baguettes or baked potatoes all round), some cakey and then a return to the van (now parked at the Pencil Museum (oh if only we had time to visit) to resupply.

another front blow out

Half a mile up the road and a bang signalle d a puncture – Big J’s front, again. A failed tyre wall, so a quick swap of tyre and tube. Well, quickish. Off we went again, target Carlisle, making excellent time on the A591, minor detour off to catch the planned route (Garmin arguments again) but eventually arriving in roughly the right spot.

making good time

A decision to keep rolling to Gretna unless we rode by a coffee and cake shop kept us moving through the town, a maniac in a white van the only incident of note – impatient with the black car ahead of him, behind us, he undercut us all at set of lights in a left only lane, nearly taking Gio out, leading to an exchange of colourful language. Deciding not to give chase, we let the idiot go, the couple in the black car amazed as we were at the van drivers actions.

On we rode, again on quieter roads, I was in the lead position when a tractor pulling a massive trailer squeezed by me. Bus-chaser Daly let out a cry to draft it, and the whole team burst into action, tagging on to the vehicle and getting an amazing tow. For a half dozen or more miles we hung on to his tail, topping 30mph on the flat and 27+ on the upward hills – “dig in lads” was the cry as the road rose, no-one wanting to drop off the free ride we were getting as to do so would mean quickly being left behind. On we hung into Longtown, locals looking on in bemusement as 8 cyclists clung to the back of the agricultural behemoth. Sadlly we were to turn off, Young Davo declaring he’d have happily followed it all the way back to Land’s End.

MD is sacked as we find a better way of getting a free tow

The path to Gretna was soon made, and the traditional End to Enders stop by the Welcome to Scotland sign was made. A quick (by our standards) van restock made, we piled on to the last 20 miles to the end of todays route.

one country crossed, one more to go

Travelling 2 up, we made excellent time, swapping a few at the front along with the tireless Mark to drag everyone home up the last couple of hills before a welcome final downard run into Lockerbie and the hotel.

job done. Mines a pint

Day 5 done. 114-ish miles out of the way.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/205158139

 

embarrasing moment of the day – getting left behind by a lady cyclist just oustside of Keswick (John was “taking it easy” on his new tyre)

best moment of the day – hitting the half way mileage-mark

most frustrating moment of the day (other than lack of sleep and cakey)  – 2nd tyre death on Big Js front wheel

LEJOG day 4 (one day late)

LEJOG day 4

140 miles in one day. Seemed like a bit of a mix of crazy idea and sound plan – its the longest ride any of us have ever done, but the profile (not many hills) allowed for a good combination of distance without over-taxing us. So off we headed. Well, we got to the edge of the hotel car park and Big J had a front flat. Sam had headed off to a nearby hill to take a few shots as the rest of us arrived, so I went on to let him know there’d be a delay while the flat was changed.

"25%l" hill. Yeah, right. We've done 25% hills, this was like 10%, big ring all round

the “25%” hill – big ring all round

Half an hour later (or so it seemed) the rest of the team crested the hill and we moved out of Ludlow together, finding our way on the route to Lancaster many miles ahead.

A brief stint on a main road was followed by several miles of winding country roads. The weather, starting bright, if a bit chilly, turned, and heavy showers began, much to the annoyance of a few of the team who had not remembered to pack any waterproofs. As we were on such small roads, a call to the support van wouldn’t get us far, so we just carried on (getting wet). We then hit the main road again, but before we’d got any distance David had a rear puncture.

puncture – again

An excuse for a toilet break, puncture change turning into a tyre change (Gio was carrying a spare after yesterday’s tyre/ pucture issue) and a call to Cameron to order various bits from a bike shop (several spare tyres, arm warmers and a bottle cage). We got going again eventually, and headed along a busy A49. Not too far along, my Garmin declared a left turn, we we turned onto a quiet country lane, picturesque countryside, gravel strewn road. With a big 20% hill on it. Oops. Ah well, we’re all seasoned hill climbers these days so a little hill is no problem. Shame we still had over 120 miles to go. Hill climbed, discussion about where to go next (Garmins deciding we were no longer on the route) ensued, eventually working our way back to the main road.

garmin

We’re not lost, Gary Garmin says its that way!

This time we stuck to it, making our way to Warrington and ignore the beeps from the Garmin telling us we’d missed various turn offs (we hadnt). 11.30 and we’d covered just over 37 miles. We pulled over in a Morrisons car park, where coincidently Mark and Cameron had parked the van. A quick food stop (not so quick it turned out) to eat a quick sandwich and some cakey, bottle refill and then get on our way.

This wasn’t lookng smart – miles to go, poor time made so far. However, the DIFD machine got into action properly, Sam taking the front and setting a great tempo picked up by the rest of us and soon the miles were flying by. One or two brief stops to allow the convoy of traffic tailing behind us (after a maniac lorry driver nearly took out a line of oncoming traffic when overtaking us) and soon we’d covered another 40 miles. Lunch stop 2 at a fine trucker’s cafe.

no cakey

no cakey makes team DIFD sad pandas

More food, no cakey. Agreement with Cameron and Mark to see them in around 30 miles time and off we went.

star

Shropshires next Michelen star eatery

Again we set a solid pace, each man taking his turn at the head of the train, as we powered on, everyone seeming to have boundless energy. We barely dropped pace except for the occasional hill which momentarily damped the pace, before the inevitable downhill speed up to get us back in the swing. We soon arrived at the 30 mile marker (107 done, 33 to go), Cameron and Mark picking the car park of a bike shop to stop the van and meet us. We wheeled in to the car park, and folk began to refill bottles and restock on gels and snacks. I nipped in to the shop, picking up some arm warmers and new cleats for my shoes (the bit that sticks to the pedals). A few minutes later we were back on the road, the last 30 miles or so and we’d be done. The team kept up the momentum of the previous sessions, working well for the most part, some close calls with traffic on round-a-bouts and at the lights, but otherwise uneventful. Until around 10 miles to go, when an unspoken message seemed to ripple through the group and the pace began to pick up. A favourable wind was equalled by flattish terrain allowing us to (perhaps we’ll regret this in the morning) maintain a terrific pace, the last miles flying by as we pushed on and on. We soon entered Lancaster, the pace not slacking, rather seeming to pick up as everyone took their stint at the front. A stop was called barely a mile from home for a photo op, then it was back on the bikes and we rolled in to the Holiday Inn car park.

bikers

bike tripod cam misses the picturesque castle behind Big J’s head

Done. 140 miles. Everyone intact. No complementary wifi in the hotel. Meanies. This will have to be posted during day 5. Sorry folks for the delay particularly to our biggeset fan, Fino – he’s just read all of our blog posts since the start in one sitting, and can’t wait for more!

 

LEJOG day 2

Day 2. When it dawns on you that you’ve still got an awful long way to go and you don’t have a day off to recover from the 100+ miles of the previous day.

day 2

Devon – where cyclists wear lycra and hedges are 10 foot tall

Breakfast was quickly despatched, cereal, fruit and yoghurt for most. The van packed, last minute room checks, a swithering over whether to take or ‘call in the van’ for waterproofs and we were on the road at just after 7:45. The first section of road was flat, followed by a few smaller hills, where my chain locked up switching rings – a mechanical crunch which seemed to sort itself out, so on we went. A nice downhill, topping 40mph, followed by rolling hills allowing the team to work well in our mini-pelaton, passing a lone cyclist as we went. However, we soon hit a stop, my front derailleur had actually snapped in my chain crunching episode, so I was effectively stuck in the ‘big ring’ (the harder to pedal/ faster gears). This wasn’t a major issue, as the ‘profile’ for the day (essentially how the hills look) was showing a mostly flat day until the last few miles (big hill). This would allow us to stop at a bike shop around lunch for a fix. Nicely worked out.

So off we went, making good time, pausing only if/when the GPS got confused and at Tiverton, just by the Whilrliwash for a van catch up and bottle fill and to phone ahead to a bike shop in Taunton to see if they could sort my bike.

whirliwash

the Whirliwash – where clothes get washed but Italians can’t get to use a toilet

We set off, soon missing the intended route, heading along an unmapped road instead of the dual carriageway A38 – probably a fortunate error, avoiding the busier road. Taunton was reached, a phone call to Cameron and Mark to establish the location of the bike shop, and we headed over. The nice folk in the Bicycle Chain came up with a new part for my bike which they would fit while we went to the Kings Arms for lunch. A fast lunch watching a bit of Olympic telly – the road cycling naturally, and we returned to collect my bike, but not before a couple of folk in the pub donated to our charity – thanks Kit and Beverley!

bicycle chain

the Bicycle Chain – thanks Brian and Nick for sorting my bike!

Bicycle Chain had sorted my bike – good as new (the part was new, cannabilised off another Canondale bike the same as mine), so off we went, taking the road to Bridgwater through heavy traffic. This turned into a serious jam, allowing us to overtake the cars, filtering our way carefully by the often stationary cars. Highbridge, Southwick, Wedmore were passed by, a brief van catch-up stop our only pause as we moved swiftly to Cheddar in the Mendips. Here the road was to climb, steeply – our support team at the ready to grab a photo as we toiled up the steep incline, myself at the back, though barely a gap was between the team. Fortunately the severity of the hill did not last, and a gentler slope lay before us (and a queue of cars behind us) when we finally reached the top. And turned back, as we’d missed the turn off. A few more miles of confused GPS following, a run in with the van team to determine which way to go and we were soon flying down the hill to our accomodation for the night. But not before another “we’re lost” moment and about turn for the last couple of miles, finally reaching the Bristol Road and a beaming Cameron waving us in to the hotel carpark.

Day 2 done. 102 miles.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/203949039

Best near-bonk moment of the day – Big J asking for a sweetie/ gel 400 yards from the hotel.

Scariest moment of the day – numerous run ins with oncoming traffic on narrow roads and in the traffic jam, especially a bus or two.

Best moments of the day (other than finishing) – the many beeps and waves from friendly motorists, Kit & Bev donating to us

Worst moment of the day – my camera is bust, so no photos after lunch 😦

cyclists

the Reservoir cyclists – who wants to be Mr Pink?

LEJOG Day 1

The first day of actual cycling was preceeded by the night of a thousand squeaks – the hostel bunks had the charming feature of making a terrible racket every time you made any movement. Result – not a very good nights kip for many of us. Still, up at 6-ish, showered (optional), breakfasted, bottles filled and some last minute mechanical tweaks before heading down the 3/4 mile to the ‘start’ at Land’s End.

7-bikes

The sign, the bikes, the riders.

the message

End to Enders book entry

John, Sam and I filled in the ‘End to Enders’ book in the hotel, then a series of photos at “The Sign” for the whole team. Then to the ‘start line’ – yup, there is an ‘official’ start line painted on the road. Striking a quick pose for camerman Cameron and we were off.

team DIFD

team DIFD

start line

start your engines

Problem #1. We’ve only ever ridden as a group of 7 once, months ago, so the ‘system’ we regularly use to change the ‘man at the front’ which works fine for a single file line of 3-5 folk wasnt really going to cut it with the ‘peleton’. Three systems came into play, which made for a fun few rotations while we worked out what was what. Eventually we got into a rhythm, merged the 3 into 1 system, and the DIFD train was 2 abreast and working well, swapping the lead pair every mile or so.

On we went, taking it reasonably easy, aiming for our first break (and potential cakey stop!) at Redruth. Mark was having some problems with his gears, so a quick stop at a bike shop (no use it turns out) meant we missed the van rendezvous. A  phone call re-arranged a layby stop – van, cake, bananas and water refills. On we went, toiling up a hill or two, making good time and only having to play with the traffic a few times on the busier parts of the A30. A silver van tried to take us out, but missed us all as he zoomed by, giving us at least 3 inches of room (why would we need more?) and nearly causing a peleton pile-up.

Target 2 – lunch at Wadebridge (60 miles) and rendezvous with McGivern cousins Gary & Claire. The only issue between us and there/ them, the haybale challenge. It must be some new Cornish cycling test. Local farmers block the road with haybales and us cyclists need to negotiate the resulting slalom to prove we are true masters of the bike.

slalom

haybale slalom

Slalom test passed, we arrived in Wadebridge, located pub, van support, cousins and something solid to lock 7 bikes to.

team DIFD with GnC

team DIFD with Gary, Claire n kids

Lunch demolished in quick time (for those that got it on first order, something of a wait for tables 2 and 3), chat with one and all, then we were back on the road for the last 40 miles. Should be easy enough but for problem #2 – the bikeroutetoaster courses and Sam’s and my Garmins were not playing nice, making dealing with route and direction changes ‘fun’ – wrong turns and roads aplenty. Still we got the right one eventually, only to discover problem #3 – the last 40 miles (no problem) contained 2 hefty hills (potential problem). So far Cornwall hadn’t quite presented the 25% inclines we’d anticipated and in the end nor really did these two. We took the first at pace, a long gradual ascent rather than a torturous steep affair, the team now well used to such challenges. In between this and the next, a road with new ‘loose chippings’. Or, in my humble opinion, a pile of gravel threatening to have you off the bike if you dared to move at any pace, pretending to be a road. For miles. And up hill, making it even more fun. In the end, no issues, but a nervous few miles.

The last hill took its first victim – Bryan going for the cadence record of the day, as his chain jumped off the sprockets, me narrowly missing running right into his back wheel. A short stop to fix his chain back on, resulted in the group stringing out and Bryan playing catch up. After a bit of climbing, it seemed he wasn’t catching the group, Gio, then myself eased off allowing him to regain contact with us, then a quick tow to Mark and David ahead. Sam and John had vanished into the distance, so the 5 of us got a train going , eventually catching them up at the roadside. We reformed the full group, hoping for an easy last 10 miles. This hope was dashed, most of the remaining miles taking us up hill, passing the 100  mile mark (and David’s first century ride) before a final fast downhill into Okehampton.

done

Job done. Until tomorrow.

A last ‘where’s the accommodation?’ conflab – turned out it was just round the corner, up a ‘nice finish to your day’ bit of road according to a local. In other words, a hill. Not quite a killer, but did offer the opportunity to do a ‘Cav’ and childishly sprint by the rest of the team from the back for the first ‘stage win’.  Day 1 in the bag. Lets see what tomorrow brings.

Garmin link to follow… and here it is:

LEJOG day 1
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/203949113

LEJOG Day 0

up and at em at silly o’clock cos I couldn’t sleep – a mixture of nerves and excitement about the adventure (ordeal?) ahead of us. David came to mine, Bryan’s dad picked us up and kindly took us to the airport. We met the other 4 DIFD cyclists and slowly made our way to security where David was relieved of various toiletries not under the 100ml limit. An uneventful flight followed, but a harsh landing added a little excitement to proceedings. First time I’ve been in a plane landing at 15° roll.

team DIFD

a full set doing the Mark – nearly

We piled into the minibus for our transfer down to Land’s End, stopping briefly at the services to grab lunch. An uneventful journey, with brief moments of gadgetry use as we checked email and tweeted a bit.

Arriving at the hostel, it seemed we’d made a slight misjudgement, the owners on the understanding that we were not going to be there til 5pm.

nearly at the start

nearly at the start

It was just after 3pm.  Result  – a walk to Lands End to meet up with Cameron and Mark Snr, Mark and David hopping back in the minibus for a lift to the nearby “Last Inn”.

dangerous cliff

who is dangerous Cliff?

Our support met, a few photos taken and then return to the hostel, bikes unloaded and assembled and the lady owner phoned, soon then arriving to let us in for the inevitable fight over beds. The accommodation resolved, a short warm up/ bike check ride for 10 miles introduced us to our first Cornish Hill. A mere 17% incline. This ascent topped, we turned to get back to head out for dinner. The Last Inn, fine ale, decent pub fare, but a long wait to actually see the grub arrive.

Home. Fireworks at Lands End in the distance and a check of email to see dozens of ‘justgiving’ donation alerts. Much twittering of thanks, then a quick blog post before bed – a 6am start likely for our first acutal day on the bikes.

done?

Look tired, folk will think we’ve just done a JOGLE

Pack n Go

Tuesday night is van packing night. Or it was yesterday. Wrestling pedals off their cranks, removing of handlebars (or not, as was the preference of some) followed by boxing of bicycles & their wheels, spare wheels and assorted stuff into the van – various spare parts, tools, our gear, a vast selection of energy food and (yes!) cakey (thank you Mrs Sammy!). And of course a Nespresso machine.   Packing was followed by a curry, naturally.

packing

thrilled to be packed and ready to go

the_mark

“doing the Mark”

For two of us, this morning is day 1 of the LEJOG. The support crew of team DIFD, Cameron and Mark Snr should now be on their way south with the aforementioned van-load of stuff.

van men

ready to roll

Safe journey!

the final training ride?

Saturday was to be our last ‘team training’ ride before the LEJOG. In the end there were four riders – Bryan, John, Sam and myself. John cycled to mine and we headed the 5 or so miles to the “Club House” to meet the others. The four of us set off to do an ‘easy pace’ 60 miles or so, but we were soon moving at a blistering pace on route to Stirling, a slight tail wind helping us reach a comfortable 20mph+ average. The miles slipped by, with us occasionally riding 2×2 to chat as we easily moved along what felt like gentle downhill roads, with barely any inclines in our way. We passed through Denny and Bannockburn, and soon arrived at Stirling. A small boy called out “look, its the Tour de France” as we whisked by – the first (and probably last) time I’ll be mistaken for a pro’ cyclist.

pro_tour

The pro tour?

As we turned back from Stirling along the A811, the effort required jumped up as we were now facing into the same wind that had helped us along so far. Bending low on the bars for my stints behind the man at the front to save energy, tucking even lower when my turn at the front came along, we worked our way along the road, breaking the momentum in our changes only briefly to snap a quick ‘overtaking’ photo for John.

action_photo

Big J on the attack!

This turned out to be costly, as unaware of our antics, Sam powered on while the rest of us messed about, and a ‘chase’ to get back on his wheel ensued, lead by myself as the next man in the train. Just as we caught him up, his 0.5 mile stint completed, and I took over at the front, still out of breath from the pursuit. Not to worry, once my turn at the front was over, I’d have time to recover on the back of the train. Not quite, as just as I peeled off the front, we were starting the climb up the Kippen hill, so drafting was going to be of little help. Bah.


a fun 4.5 minutes going up the Kippen hill

We climbed pretty much as a group, pausing briefly at the village to regroup for the final stretch of the ascent. At the top, a quick stop turned into a slightly longer break as Bryan fixed a creaking saddle and Sam’s electronic gears needed some attention.

gearsNsaddle

Anyone know the reset process for electronic gears?

The ride down was taken steadily, with only a brief mile or two before the Crow Road and our second and final climb of the day. The Crow Road was at the end of my first ever outing on the bike, back in a chilly, wet November last year when I was completely new to modern cycling and could barely work the gears and worries of falling off while ‘clipped in’ were a distinct possibility. So it was apt that the last climb in my final training ride before our LEJOG would also be on that same hill. Back then, cycling up-hill at any sort of speed was a distant dream – I’d chug uphill at barely over walking pace, often thinking I’d be quicker hopping off the bike and running, as my more cycle-experienced team-mates fast vanished into the distance, seeming to glide uphill with barely any effort. Not so today. We all moved up together, Sam and John taking the lead, our speed barely dropping below 10mph except on the steepest sections. Bryan fell off a little, so as we made the top we were one man short, but the descent would be followed by a stop to regroup. My bottle bounced out of its cage at the car park, a fellow cyclist going uphill recovering it for me, as I braked hard and was working out how on earth to turn back up hill to recover it when sat in my top gear (walking was my plan). Bottle back on board I continued down to the turn-off, Bryan soon with us and the four of us got back ‘in the train’ for the last few miles home.

A slight detour at Torrance from the ‘normal’ route added an extra 4 miles. After a stint at the front, knocking back some water, I found myself off the back of the group, and struggling to regain their back wheels. My recent “these hills are easy” self confidence was vanishing as quickly as the group were into the distance. A red light ahead spurred me to catch them, but they all stopped for a quick ‘which way is it’ just before the lights, allowing me catch up, chow down a banana and let them know “I’m suddenly done in”. Not good. We got going again, my energy slowly returning, but I still struggled on some of the slight uphill sections, pushing hard to stay in-group. The downhill to the second to last junction caused a bit of a stir, Sam in the lead coming to a near stop before shooting out, leaving the rest of us unclipped waiting for the traffic. As we’d just been coming downhill, I was in a high gear, so stood up and pushed hard up the first section of the last short hill before home, zipping ahead of Bryan and John, who not liking this ‘attack’ returned the favour as I hit ‘lactic acid’ threshold, sitting down as they zoomed by me before they too slowed up near the top. I rolled after them, catching up on the roundabout as we turned in to stop at the “Club House”, comparing averages as we hopped off our bikes and loaded them onto the cars. 18.5 mph. That was an ‘easy’ training ride? There’ll be none of that crazy speeding on the LEJOG.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/201881474

Higher and Higher

Ok, following on from our team cycle on Saturday (4/7, not quite the full team, but hey, its not bad this close to the ‘big day’ – blog post to follow) we’ve decided to up our fundraising target (again!) on justgiving.com to £15,000 – aiming high, but we are definitely making a difference with every extra pound we raise – I found out yesterday that we’re the top fundraiser for Brain Tumour Action and second for Epilepsy Scotland on justgiving – so many, many thanks again to those who have already donated. Only 4 days to go until we are on the road!

the 10th member of team DIFD

the DIFD crew are a very team oriented bunch, so much so that even the van wants to feel like its a true part of the team. We can’t upset our poor little transit, so to stop it feeling left out, we’ve got a couple of these:

door_magnet

50p for scale

Nice DIFD door magnets. Now our hire van will be one of the gang sporting its very own version of the team kit. Awww.

mr van

the van, soon to be DIFD’er #10

10k and up

Wow! Today we exceeded our £10,000 fundraising target on justgiving.com, a week before we head off on the LEJOG cycle itself. We’re all amazed at the generosity shown by family, friends, neighbours, colleagues and even people we’ve met during training and events over the last several months.

As we’ve not even begun the cycle (yet – 9 days to go!), we’ve decided to up the target to £12,000. Knowing that every hill, each mile, all the hours we’ve put in throughout our training and soon the LEJOG itself has lead to such kind donations, makes it all worth it. Every little bit extra we raise will go towards helping those with epilepsy or brain tumours, as well as those around them. Both these conditions have such an impact on those who have them.  I know our efforts and yours will make such a positive difference in their lives.

Thank you all for giving to the charities we chose to support in memory of Dee.

Ian

cyclists vs midges

Saturday 14th. Probably the last proper team training outing before the big day on the 27th. Start point was to be Callander. Big J and Sam were going to ride an extra 30 odd miles from John’s place, but Bryan had offered to give Mark and myself a lift to the start point. Turns out the drive over took a lot longer than anticipated, and the 12:30 start slipped about an hour. We got parked up, grabbed a quick bite and set off. I immediately regretted going single layer-short sleeve, as although the sun was sort of out, it was chilly on the bike. However, once the train got going at a solid pace I soon warmed up and we were making good time along the road. A minor collision with some on-road debris resulted in a possible puncture for Sam, so a brief stop to check it out was called. Re-inflating the tyre seemed to sort it out so we restarted.

The weather soon turned, and drizzle was upon us as we hit a slow climb out of Lochearnhead. The drizzle turned to rain, so a stop for jackets-on for yours truly was made (yeah, I still can’t put on a jacket in the saddle). The hill continued, the rain relenting as we reached the top, but Sam’s back tyre had deflated on the way up, so needed a new tube. We pulled over in a lay-by and he changed the tube. The rain had stopped, and the midges were out, thousands of ’em. I’m usually a prime target for these little beasties, and this time it was no different, swarming round me as I held Sam’s bike for him as he hurriedly worked the new tube onto his wheel. However, the sheer number of the wee beasties resulted in everyone getting chewed at, as we swatted and splatted them as best we could. Tube changed, back on bikes, escape the beasties down the hill!

midge_mayhem

the aftermath of cyclists vs midges

by_cottage

fold your arms, and no smiling!

On through Killin and to Glenlochay, with a brief stop at Big J’s in-law’s cottage for a quick photo session and chat about the hill to come – the road is a bit ‘rough’ and there are gates in the deer fence on the hill that need opened and closed to get through. There’s also a bit where you need to get off the bike… not liking the sound of that. We were soon at the foot of the hill, having already picked our way through some very pot-holed and gravel covered sections of road. The first gate lay ahead of us, Bryan in the lead opening it for us, but we all had to dismount to get by the cattle grid, Big J’s hope of just cycling through was not happening. Clipping-in on the slope was a challenge, and avoiding the numerous holes, rocks and gravel strewn over what was left of the tarmac was not making this climb any easier. Mark and Sam took to the front, I was in the middle followed up by Bryan and John, all of us picking our way carefully through the mess that was once a road, while working hard to get up the hill. Another gate and cattle grid lay between us and the top, this time we were able to slip through the ‘kissing gate’ at the side. Again, clipping in not easy on these kind of slopes, but everyone eventually got to the 500m high summit.

Bryan_n_BigJ

Bryan and Big J on one of the better bits of road

The downward section was not the normal relaxing descent, the road equally pitted and scattered with obstacles as the ascent. At the bottom we regrouped, Big J rolling to a stop, having picked up a front puncture somewhere on the last section of the descent.

tyre_burst

help me Mavic Man!

Wheel off, tyre quickly checked for thorns, new tube in, inflated with the gas, when BANG! the tube exploded. Mark and John started to put in a second tube, taking their time to avoid another issue.  However, there was something up – the tube was starting to bulge out the wall of the tyre. An inch-long gash in the sidewall was responsible. Not looking good, but Sam produced his tyre patches and the tyre was fixed up, inflated as best we could without bursting the patch and we set off, John cautious at first to be sure the tyre was going to hold.

The road rolled on, the mostly downward section offering a welcome respite from the recent climb, but this was a short-lived 10 mile section before the long climb up the road of Ben Lawers. Five miles or so of steady uphill was before us, but not as harsh as the previous climb.

ben_lawer_climb

could that be a cakey shop ahead??

lochan at top of Ben Lawer

the top reached

We were soon cycling alongside the lochan at the summit, the flat soon becoming a steep descent, picking up speed as we headed down toward the A827 and the return section to Killin. The final short climb back up to the ‘midge’ spot and it was mostly flat or downhill all the way ‘home’, Bryan taking the front to ‘get some exercise’ for several miles, with the last 3 miles seeing a burst of speed to finish the day.

The final fun of they day – getting 5 men and 5 bicycles into one car. This involved various wheels being taken off and held on knees, but they were all squashed in somehow for the trip back to Glasgow, where a curry (plus unexpected karaoke) awaited us in Cambuslang.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/199377763

The most essential bicycle accessory for LEJOG

DIFD custom headset cap

is now installed on my bike. A custom headset cap. You know you want one too. A mere $12.99 from http://kustomcaps.com/ And it makes you go up hills faster ‘cos its red. Honest.

cap on bike

and installed on the bike

 

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.

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.

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.