Author Archives: myjhigh

Tubby Talks – LEJOG Day 3

200 miles covered in two days.  Surely the team must be flagging now?  Let’s hear the words of wisdom from Turbine and, first, the words of not-so-much-wisdom from Young Dave.  It should be noted that Young Dave was rather bereft of sleep here, due to the frequent gas leaks that emanated from the hotel room.

Tubby Talks – LEJOG Day 1 and 2

Tubs, Turbine, Ronnie Rocket or whatever monicker you know him by – the mouthpiece of each phase of the great Land’s End to John O’Groats challenge.

Watch and see what the feeling was sitting in a fine Bed and Breakfast in Land’s End only minutes before the great adventure, so long in the planning, would start.

Post Ride Tubs comments – “This was a tough day, especially in the afternoon when we hit some big hills.  Really enjoyable though.  Missing from Ian’s blog was meeting the lovely couple from Solihull CC on their tandem the night before our LEJOG.  Briefly caught sight of the chap next day post-lunch, but our peloton was in full flight and we didn’t get a chance to stop.  All the best to you both”.


Here Tubs tells us about what day 2 has in store.

Glen Lyon Ride

A scenic run set up for last Saturday’s group ride.  Start at Callander head to Killin and head up the valley and over to Glen Lyon.  Then head up the hill to hill to Ben Lawers and back down and round Loch Tay to end up back at Killin and onwards to Callander.  77 miles with some good climbing involved.

5 of the team were up for the route – only the G train and Young Davo missing.  A 12.30 start seemed to suit most people so there you go.  Of course, Sam then suggested cycling to Callendar as well.  I couldn’t say no could I?  So 77 miles becomes potentially 150.  Strangely, nobody but Sam and I were up for the 150.

Sam turned up in Renfrew only 15 minutes late – the earliest he’s been late in a long time, so we caught the intended Renfrew ferry boat ride to Yoker and headed on our way in earnest.  A fairly smart 35 miles later we were in Callendar with 20 minutes to spare over the rest of the chaps – time for a toastie in a wee cafe.

The rest of the gang rolled in for our 12.30 rendezvous at at 13.45 – the earliest Mark’s been late in a long time.  So we start the 115 mile route (everyone was going to cycle all the way back except perhaps Tub, the driver) at 2 in the afternoon.  Or is that the early evening.  No matter, let’s ride.

Some good bunch riding until Sammy got a flat.  He took 10 minutes to ‘fix’ it – turned out he just put some air in it because it was a slow puncture.  How long would he have taken to put a new tube in?  And how long till we stopped for another air top-up?  Memories of the Farce Whitton and Ian’s tyre troubles were fast being rekindled.

Onwards to Killin.  Ian called a stop to put jackets on.  “It’s not worth it – it’s going to go off in a minute”.  “Are you joking”?  So jackets duly put on and another wee stop 5 minutes later – to take jackets off.

Another stop at the Waddell family cottage up the valley in Killin – Dalgirdy.  No keys so can’t go in but at least mark has now clapped eyes on it, after claiming that he has never been invited to stay.

Continue up the valley and up the steep, knackered road leading to Glen Lyon.  Apparently, I overplayed the difficulty of this hill – 20% gradient is small potatoes to Sam.  Of course, every time the gradient was up you had to veer al over the road to avoid the multitude of potholes and loose rocks everywhere – can’t be good for tyres surely?

Down the hill and on to Glen Lyon – time to push the pace again, when boom – my tyre pretty much explodes going over a cattle grid.  A quick change of tube – and kaboom!  It positively explodes before putting it on the bike.  At this point we realise that the tyre is ripped.  We’re in doo-doo now.  Stuck in no man’s land with no phone signal and and a dud tyre. As I am team leader, Tubs knows that he must give up his wheel to me – aye right.  The best that happens is that Sam has a patch for tyre walls – does a reasonable job but a bit of a bulge is appearing so I’m restricted to approximately 20 psi instead of the usual 120.  I can feel the rim as we go over cattle grids – not pleasant.

No matter – it’s holding up so I gingerly make my way along the road and up the hill to Ben Lawers with my trusty domestique  Ian sitting beside me to make sure I’m ok.  The rest have sailed into the distance over the hill.  A slow descent from Ben Lawers and as we hit the road by Loch Tay I’m feeling a bit more confident to push the pace a little.  We’re going to have to – the 150 miler is never happening but the challenge now it so get back to Callendar and drive back to Cambuslang for a team meeting and curry sometime before midnight.

Tubby feels strong so takes the fron for the last number of miles and we belt into Callendar at top testosterone-driven speed.  However, the pace is a little too tidy for a weakening Sam.  Normally at this point he takes a header off the bike into the gutter.  This time he plays more safe and stops for a ‘puncture’.  I stop along with Mark but Tubs and Ian don’t heard the call to stop – or strangely see that we have stopped (Tubs has looked round at least 200  times in the last 5 miles.  Interesting).  Of course, it’s a phantom puncture.  So we try to get back up to pace and get some great drafting behind a motorhome, which unfortunately turns left a mile shy of where we need it.

Back in Callandar, 5 bikes in/on the car, various wheels in people’s laps, and home James.  Get into Cambuslang for a curry, Tubs sings Rhinestone Cowboy at the karaoke, the big meeting takes 5 seconds and back home.  happy days.

Waxing, Shaving, Cream

The big date for departure for LEJOG is fast looming.  At last the serious questions are being asked as some of the chaps get their heads on for this momentous trip.  Questions that should have been asked a long time ago – are we getting our legs shaved or waxed?

As a cyclist it is imperative to be hair free in the legs region.  You save valuable time as you cut down on wind resistance and it makes it much easier to address cuts and scrapes if you come off the bike.

Of course, these reasons are hogwash.  The pros do it because, well, you just do it don’t you?  Twas ever thus.  The rest of us do it (except most of our crew have never done it) because the pros do it – and if it’s good enough for them etc. etc.

So the real reasons why it is done are not completely clear.  The one thing that can be said for sure is that is NOT done in any way out of vanity.  No way.  No one is doing it thinking “gosh, don’t my legs look good?  Aren’t my muscles well defined?  Don’t they feel lovely and smooth”?

Anyway, our LEJOG crew have decided to go hair-free.  All for one and one for all.  We are now at the stage of contemplating exactly how that process should be carried out.  Wax, shave, hair removal cream?  We shall see.

Young Mark has a bit of form in the hair free game.  He’s an ironman, don’t ya know and all ironmen are hair free.  Mark has suggested the hair removal cream route, which is what he does.  Apparently, he’s a little stubbly at the moment but will address that soon.  I spoke to him yesterday and he said that he doesn’t actually like shaved legs.  Interestingly, he still shaves, although he also let it be known that he thought the stated reasons for shaving mentioned previously were hogwash.  And still he shaves.  Interesting indeed.

Gio is not convinced by the cream method.  he has in the past shaved – only once mind.  I loved his quote that he out in an email, “I will admit that 10yrs ago I did shave (was serious about beach volley in Cali-don’t make me say more)”.  SERIOUS ABOUT BEACH VOLLEY BALL????  Mull that one over.

Anyway, the G trains legs are looking seriously developed.  Yes, I look – and admire.  Consequently, when the waxing issue was broached, he jumped all over the idea – and then said “of course, I’m not bothered but in the interests of team harmony I’d be happy to go along with what you agree).  Personally, I think he’s for waxing.

Turbine was told by Mrs T under no circumstances was he to wax – he would not be able to stand the pain.  Which is a pity as he seriously fancied the full b, s and c.  Turbine has his power calves to show off.  He’s mustard keen to ‘get em off’ hair-wise.

Ian, Young Davo and Sammy are not saying much on the issue although Ian seems ready to lay himself at the mercy of the ladies at his work.  £10 a strip towards the charities?

Waxing, shaving, cream.  I decided to take one for the team – and used the cream.  The results are shown below.  As I write this, this is the current state of play.  The water is the shower is too cold to contemplate the 2nd leg.  So I’m going to go out now for a run and see if my right leg runs faster than the left.  At least I know I will be fast as I don’t want anyone seeing me in hairy/smooth transition stage.

Click the pic to see the full glory. Hope you’ve not just eaten.

So.  Wax, shaving, cream or au natural.  What do you think?  Comments please.

Costa Del Cycling

After returning from our very own Farce Whitton trip on the Sunday, I was down to London by coach on the Monday at 5.45 am.  Returning from London at midnight on the Wednesday, it was then an early rise to drive to Leeds on the Thursday and the family hols to Calahondas, just outside of Marbella.  So after the Farce, very little in the way of exercise in the following week.  Of course, I had sussed out  It’s obligatory you know.

An immediate issue of being based in Calahondas is that there is only one road that takes you basically anywhere – the N135*.  This is a dual carriageway that “you are allowed to cycle on” – but really, just don’t.  So if  I were to hire a bike, would I have anywhere to bike?

Come the following Monday I’m going stir crazy – I’m getting the bike for a few days and I’ll suss it out from there.  Pick up the bike from the hire shop (lovely, helpful couple – if you’re in the Marbella area use them) and they flag up a couple of routes – including the N135 – no.  “Are there any hills” I ask?  They immediately burst out laughing.  Oh yes there are indeed hills.  In fact the only flat is on the N135 – no.

Trip one – Tuesday

A 5.30 alarm call and I awoke and spring up – it’s pitch dark.  I get up and have breakfast (never seems right at this time – it’s the middle of the night).  In truth, I’d have been better sleeping on for at least another half hour as I slowly mess around getting gear together and planning my route.  Eventually, I head out in the dark, throw the bike in the car and drive towards Marbella with a rough plan of where I want to start.

I end up in a town just a couple of miles from the hire shop – which took an hour and a half to find the previous day.  Today’s route will see me head to Ronda (“help me Ronda (sic), help, help me Ronda will play through my head continually as I climb the hills).

You’re always uneasy on roads that you don’t know.  Looking on the map, this looks like a main A road that you would generally disregard from a major cycle unless you had no option.  However, the girl in the shop said it was fine and the further you go the finer it gets.  So I set off.  And there’s a slight incline (3%) to begin with.  This soon changes to 6% and the town is left behind and the route is beginning to look pretty good.  Over the hill, the sun is beginning to think about getting up – wish I’d got on the road earlier now. So up we go with the gradient never below 3% but never above 8% for mile after mile.  This is Tour de France like cycling – except my average speed is probably a touch higher than those chaps – well, I’m on a 3 day route, they do 21.  After 12 mile the road flattens a little and in fact there’s then several miles descending.  Truth of the matter is that I’d rather have climbed all the way to Ronda and then enjoyed turning round and freewheeling the 30 miles back to the start.

Some really stunning scenery on this run.  Looking down at some golf courses from way up the hill was stunning – this is what cycling is all about.  However, a major problem was beginning to happen.  I’d forgotten my bib shorts with their nice padding and my backside was now being seriously irked by the saddle of the hire bike to the extent that peddling was becoming an issue.  Anyway, onwards to Ronda (help, help me Ronda – you’re singing it now too aren’t you)?

That golf course used to be above me

A bit of a skirt round the town half looking for a bike shop.  Eventually I decide it time to get back on the route.  Of course I’ve deviated from the path and getting back on route is not so easy and the traffic is slow.  After a bit crawling behing a couple of cars I approach a junction and come to a halt.  Glancing nonchalantly to my right I am looking in the window of a cracking looking bike shop.  Sister fate has played a trump card.  In I go, try on some Orbrea bibs and tell the chap I’m wearing them to go.  Result.  They make a reasonable match to the DIFD tops as well.  Result 2.  And Carol will never know that I’ve just spent some considerable coinage on a new pair of bibs.  Who returns from  a bike ride in different clobber to what they go out in?  Result 3.

Didn’t expect a massive improvement with the bibs.  However, massive improvement was what I got.  My ass had been in real pain and I could hardly pedal.  Gone.  As a man reborn I got onto those hills and headed up knowing that were were 12 miles of straight down to come.  Eventually I hit the top and started the descent.  However, I stopped to take a photo of the previously mentioned golf courses for young Tubs.  Dragged the bike away from the road and took a snap or two.  This was probably a mistake.

I finished another couple of miles of the descent and hit the only small piece of ascent before the final 5 miles of descent (which I had forgotten about approaching the route the other way).  Jumped on the pedals to attack the hill and noticed the puncture that I had.  Never really felt it on the way down the hill.  Probably aquired taking the snap for Tubby.  So it’s his fault.  Cheers wee guy.  Took maybe 10 minutes to leisurely fix the flat – this is 3 hrs 12 mins quicker than Ian’s current best time.  However the pump on the hire bike was woeful.  Trying to pump to a reasonable pressure was almost as tiring as the ride itself.

With enough air in the tyre to coast home I located the car and stopped the GPS.  65 mile in the bag, 1800 miles of ascent and average of 21 mph.  Average actually said 14 mph, but that’s a mistake.

Stumbled across the bike shop, which previously took an hour and a half to locate and got a track pump to get the tyres back up to full pressure and purchased a couple of spare inner tubes, just in case.  Result 4.

Headed home just about midday to reconvene the sun worshipping and avoidance of the swimming pool.

“I’m home darling”.

“Have you gone and bought new shorts after going on about how you’ve no money”?

Strike result 3 from the record books.

Day 2 to follow.

Don’t Worry Mate – I’ve Got Your Back

So.  Last Sunday Sammy and myself did the “Wrynose or Bust” sportive starting in Lancaster and heading into the Lake District.  The big chap said that he would write it up.  As Diana Ross says, “I’m still waiting”.

Therefore, it’s up to me to do the work.  WHich should not be an issue as I surely was ‘invited’ to do much of the work last weekend.  Hence the title – in the first 90 miles, the Sam was ahead of me for about 5 of those miles.  Do the math for the rest.

Anyway.  A 112 mile route with 20+ mph winds forecast (gusting to 40 mph) and serious rain forecast for much of the day.  Pretty daunting.

On the Saturday, we did a recce of some of the course.  The weather was awesome.  Surely the forecast was wrong?  The recce showed some tough hills, with some steep gradients.  However, Wrynose itself did not look to bad (easy said from the comfort of the car).  Easy or not, there was not doubt that we were tackling the hill from the not-hard direction.  The descent would be brutal with 30% gradient and twisty turns on a road that “wasn’t great” (so say the locals.  Compared to a lot of what we ride up here, the roads were joyful).  In truth, we were both disappointed.  Wrynose is one of the climbs from the previously mentioned “100 Greatest Climbs” – but not this way round.  Anyway, it ensures that we will have to return.

So Saturday involved a large pasta lunch before heading to Lancaster and our hotel.  The hotel looked smashing on the website.  When we got to Lancaster we went twice round the block and missed the brilliant white exterior of the hotel.  On the third lap we spotted a rather less brilliant white and realised this was indeed the place.  Photoshop is a wonderful application is it not?  That said, the hotel was fine.

And so to dinner.  A half pasta starter (same size as a full pasta just about) followed by a bowl of pasta.  And to large pizza shaped garlic breads.  Carbed up and then some (young Tubs aka Novak will be reading this and will be aghast about the ingestion of bread).

Up in the morning at 5 am.  Not a bad sleep, with only two rude awakenings from Sammy’s turbo-charged snoring – he’s defo getting better.  As the belly gets smaller, so too do the snores it seems.  The lovely fruit-laden muesli filled the bellies (which were already full of the pasta that was finished about 25 minutes earlier it seemed).  Showtime.

The race started at the Halton Army training camp in Lancaster.  We entered the site and about 500 direction arrows directed us round to the completely obvious car park.  This was the best signposted quarter mile in the history of signposted routes – which would prove ironic.

Not long after 6.30 we were on the way.  I pushed on followed by Sam (‘get used to it Johnny boy’ was not something he uttered, but it would have been appropriate).  We hit the first hill after a quarter of a mile and passed a few riders.  The truth is that we were hoping to pick up a group to share the work load a little.  However, the pace of these riders was too slow for comfort.  At the top of the ride though, we noticed a chap had tagged on the back.  A nice chap (Mark) and we got working together.  3 beats 2.

After a few miles, 3 riders went past at a good lick – “I know those shirts – the Glasgow Nightingales”.  Sam seemed reluctant to follow them, worrying the pace was too tidy.  I urged him on and of course the pace was just fine – 6 beats 3, especially when they seemed happy to take more than their share on the front.

Not long after we hooked up with the chaps, Sam was caught in discussion with one of the nightingales.  The word got round.  The turn at the mini-roundabout, with the poorly positioned sign (remember Halton?) now had the GPS (the good old 800 version with maps that Sam and now Ian own) was telling us that we were off course.  So we turned back.  And met another bunch of riders.  And turned back again.  And rode till we came to a junction.  With no sign.  And turned back again.

Yes, our 112 mile sportive was now destined to be a 120 mile sportive.  However, the good thing was that we now had a good going group.  The peleton was on.  The nightingale boys picked anther route but we joined them after a few miles in our group, which was marshalled by a beast of a boy on a mountain bike who was knocking out a really tidy rhythm.

Now that wind.  The early parts of the course were hard going, but once we got into the group you really didn’t notice the effect so much.  This was a really enjoyable stage of the ride and the miles flew by.  Me and one of the nightingales seemed to do a fair amount on the front.  At one stage, the nightingale looked around for a bit of help.  “On you go Sam”, I said.  “There’s no point wasting energy” said the bold one.  So again, I went on the front.

The big climb at Grizedale (I think) put paid to the large group.  I was climbing really well here.  Eventually, one of the nightingales came up and we chatted a bit.  He was a fair one for getting up on the pedals I had noticed earlier.  Because he wanted to or he had to?  Answer – he wanted to.  This guy was clearly class, and was holding loads back waiting for the other 2 who weren’t quite as nippy.

A fast descent, another couple of climbs and we regrouped at the first feed station (cracking chicken and stuffing sandwiches).  Sam came in and we decided to wait for the nightingales.  Our earlier friend Mark was skulking around, looking like he’d rather not hook up again – the hills had caught him out  a bit.  Waiting for the nightingales wasn’t the greatest idea as we separated from them pretty sharpish (yes, more hills).  However, we would meet up with them at various other parts of the route.

On we battered, seeing some familiar faces from the earlier group.  The miles ticked by, the hills rose and fell, and the wind really began to blow until eventually we were in the valley looking to the distance and Wrynose Pass – the easy way.  Not today, my friend.  In the valley, Sam and I worked together, taking very short bursts at the front.  The road was flat here and we couldn’t get to 10 mph.  And we were overtaling everyone on route.  The wind was now hellish.  Hopefully, the slope of the hill would prove some respite from the wind, or getting up without pushing would look to be an impossibility.

And so we go to the base of the hill – and the slope proved to be no respite.  This was hell.  I was up on the pedals and turning them sooo slowly.  Please let me get up here without coming off.  I looked round for Sam.  He was still there and suffering as much as me.  “One more turn, one more turn, one more turn”.  I looked up and realised it was too far, too windy, too steep, too hard.  If I was Ian I would be giving it full volume Sharapova grunting now.  But I gave it an inner “aaarrrrggghhh!!!!” and fought on – and made it.  The summit!  Oh Lord in Heaven, thank you so much.  This was a real sense of achievement.  Next time I’m struggling, it’s going to be the go too place in the memory banks – the day I stepped into the hurt locker.

Now the descent.  Absolutely daunting.  The roads are narrow and the occasional car would come up the hill.  It’s hard work gripping the bike so tense (I know I shouldn’t) and braking as much.  However, down we go, meeting up with the lead nightingale again, for the last time (they DNF’d – don’t know why).  After some remonstrations with some mad old lady in a car, trying to pass where there was absolutely no room, we ventured away from Wrynose in agroup of 5 that became 4 then 3 then me and Sam.  Alone again (naturally).  After a while we reached the 2nd and last food stop.  Here we put on our jackets.  I wasn’t going to, but decided to at the last minute – just as well.  We hooked up with another chap here (the 90 mile mark) and would stay with him until the end).  “At this point I asked Sam, have you enjoyed it so far”?  “Yes, it’s been tough but great” he said.  And till that point I would have agreed wholeheartedly.

The rain now came belting down and I took several miles trying to retrieve my thicker gloves to wear.  Signs looking ominous with the cold hands.  I only got one of the gloves out (the other would make an appearance at the end of the ride).  Sam was now looking very strong.  To the point that he took an extended turn at the front.  In truth, that turn lasted about 20 miles.  I was the 3rd man in the group and staying there.  Although my legs felt pretty good, it was tough keeping up and my hands were feeling very strange in a “is this frost-bite” kind of way.  Soon enough, I couldn’t really change gears and braking was torture.  The rain just kept belting down and this was serious work.  Let’s just get home now.

Eventually, we made it (although Sam missed the most obvious sign in the race, especially with a bunch of riders heading up the route).  Back to the training camp, into the showers for the agony and ecstasy as the warm water got to work on the hands and the rest of the freezing body, but mainly the hands.  A bit of hotpot and into the car and back up the road, convinced that Sam’s bike was going to blow off the roof – it was doing some serious wobbling).  Of course, once we hit Scotland, the wind had abated and the rain gone.  All just a dream perhaps?

in Retrospect?  A belter of a route with 2500m of climbing.  Average of 15.4 mph, which was commendable in the conditions.  The conditions?  What doesn’t break you can only make you stronger.  It’s all good.

Final verdict.  Awesome.  We’ll be back – probably.  Although, the Fred Whitton (Wrynose or Bust’s “Big Brother”) is definitely going in the diary next year.  Next stop Etape Caledonia.  Bring it on.  All right Sam, you can come out now.  It’s all over.


Preceding the Kneesome Threesome

“Dad, I read your blog.  It’s boring”.

Thanks to my dear eldest daughter, who is an avid reader – just not of my material.

Anyway, not going to get less boring as I sandwich in between the Majorca exploits of the “kneesome threesome” and the Maritime Alps of young Turbine – plenty of pictures please Tubs.

For  the Sunday ride from a couple of weeks ago, Turbine suggested focusing on the upcoming Etape Caledonia.  The plan was to go over the well known route of the Duke’s Pass, sticking tightly together as a foursome sharing the workload at the front equally, having no stops over the 75 mile route and obtaining an 18 mph average.

A good shout from Tubby who was feeling good in body and mind, clearly, after a couple of very promising rides in the past couple of weeks.

The upshot?  Tubs was feeling it on the Duke’s Pass – a worrying sign.  After a bit, he decided to sit on the back – too much too soon last week?  By Kippen he was well out the back door, and a decision had to be made.  Stop and wait or push on over the Crow road and homewards trying for the 18 average.  Considering the group consisted on myself, Sammy and Gio the decision will be no surprise – “he knows the way home” said Sam, and on we pushed as a trio (the Majorca boys would all have waited it must be recognised).

We fair belted on and Gio was beginning to go backwards up the final little hill at Torrance – always a nice feeling to crest any hill in front of the mountain goat – big Sam was clearly invigorated and powering on.  However, we waited on him and duly returned to the clubhouse with an average of 18.1 mph.  Mission accomplished (almost).  Tubs rolled in 10 minutes later.  Today was not his day – it happens.  He’ll be back bigger and stronger next time.

So.  Can we break 4 hours for the 81 miles of the Etape (requiring a 20 + mph average)?  Time will tell, but with the big chain gangs to be found in this route, we’ve got a chance.

Border Ride

The Easter holidays are upon us again, and the usual Waddell, McGivern, D’Alessio get together is once more upon us.  From Huntly to Mull to Fort William and this time down in the borders – Langholm to be exact.  Never been here before, but I’m sure it will be lovely.

So not time to cycle.  Not quite.  Gio hatched a plan and it’s me and him on the early morning train to Berwick with a vague route plotted to take us to Langholm.

Starting out from Berwick we hook up almost immediately with a local, just as we are contemplating a none too road bike friendly section of cycle path.  Our new friend, Alistair, ensures us it’s fine and just a quick means of crossing the A7, so on we go – and he’s right, it’s fine.  Alistair sticks with us for 22 miles to Kelso.  He’s good company and knows the roads well, so the miles pass by quickly, aided by the tail wind.  No big pushing going on here, but a healthy enough average, and very little in the way of hills until we part company in Kelso.

We continue on at a reasonable rate with the road beginning to rise and fall, and repeat.  It’s all good as the roads down here are cracking and the traffic almost nil.  Riding in the borders really is heavenly.

No mishaps, no big setbacks, no major incidents.  And from my viewpoint, no big memories of much of the route.  Suffice to say we end up in Newcastleton, anticipating 5 miles to journey’s end.  Hmmm.

We speak to a chap watching a game of football who tells us that we can continue on the flat road we are on and will hit Langholm in 15 miles, riding the A7.  Not a comforting prospect.  Or we can go in another direction (our intended route) which will be quiet and is 9 miles – “it’s hilly mind you”.  He lied not.  The road went sharply up, then went up and up and up.  Down a bit and then up and up.  Getting ridiculous now.  Eventually, it went way down and we were flying into Langholm, at which point we recalled climbing this very hill the other way round in a sportive last year – Never been here before.  Incorrect.

Nearly done now.  As ever, there is always a sting in the tail.  We hoped to have maybe a half a mile to roll to the holiday home.  In truth, still 7 to go and a couple of right good hills.

However, it’s not long until we pull up in front of the beautiful dwellings that shall constitute home for the next week.  A quick For Goodness Shake, a bit of Sandra’s diving malteser cake (or 3), and pull the shutter down on a fantastic 96 mile training run.  Life is sweet.


A couple of weeks ago the official Do It For Dee kit arrived and was paraded on a team ride with 4 of the crew.  After some gentle cajoling from big Ian, I now present team DIFD.  The kit will never look more shiny than it does here (my long sleeve top was only minutes away from getting covered in oil, WHITE sleeve natch, cleaning a chain).


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tubby is a Big Beast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team Kit, New Shiny and Thinking Next Phase

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

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

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

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

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

Wun Tun

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Generations on Form

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

Coasting along without a care

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

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

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

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

Tubby vs the Big Beasts

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

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

Tubby and the big beast

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

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

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

David and Tubs atop the Duke's Pass

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

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

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

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

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

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

Krackin’ Kit

Kit 8

You may recall the team kit for the LEJOG ride.  All riders created 2 tops, a vote was made and the winner was chosen – Gio’s red and white number as featured on a previous blog post.

So.  Over the last couple of weeks the team have been asked – get us some sponsors to provide a donation with all proceeds going directly to our dearly held causes – Brain Tumour Action and Epilepsy Scotland.  The bigger the sponsorship, the more prominent the placing on the jersey was the thinking.

Anyway, a big thank you to our sponsors – Profile Projects, DOOSAN Power Systems, The Daily Record, World Challenge, Billy Bilsland Cycles, Adam Laurie Property, The Anvil Inn, Uddingston Anvil AFC, SG Polishing and J Clark Catering.

Getting the sponsors was meant to be the tricky part – not so.  Once the sponsors were in, it was no mean feat getting a vector graphic for each of them that would be able to go onto the jersey and maintain a high level of quality.  In the end, we got the logos required (my Adobe Illustrator skills have improved immeasurably with the logos that had to be created by hand).

Now to fit them on the kit – NO CHANCE.  Kit 8 as chosen was simply not up to the task of bearing the names of all the chosen sponsors in any kind of attractive manner.

So back to the drawing board, integrate the logos, throw the design back and forward to the ever so helpful Lauren at Owayo (still throwing it back and forward a little but nearly there) and voila, our masterpiece.

Not quite kit 8, but a bit of a belter.  Eh no?

Rolling with the Big Beasts

Lat Saturday’s ride was a rerun of the previous week – The Kirkhouse Inn and heading to Aberfoyle and the Duke’s Pass.  On to Callendar and then to Kippen (I believe this hill is known as the “Top of the World?), before heading up the Crow Road and back to the Kirkhouse.  60 miles which allow the team to stick together for much of the way in a nice, fluid train – assuming there are enough ‘carriages’ for said train.

So, a rerun of last week except that 5 bodies were down to 3 for a variety of reasons – me, Gio and Sammy, the hardcore members of the team.

The first 10 miles left the omens not looking to clever.  A strong wind had us blowing early on.  Then the sleet came down prompting Gio to enquire of plan B – there is no plan when riding with the A team.  After 20 miles his words seemed ludicrous with a gentle breeze at our back (always a gentle breeze at the back but a howling gale when in the face), warming sunshine and simply glorious scenery.

At the end of the day, a fine run was had by all with no punctures and no mechanicals meaning little in the way of meaningful copy. A nice average of 16.6 mph, a wondrous For Goodness Shake post-ride and a nice wee bath afterwards.  Very nice.

From LE to JOG

The route is complete.  The final version (mibbe) can be viewed on the Route page.  What do you think?

come on.  LET’S BE HAVING YOU!

Team Training 4 – A Game of Two Halves

Me, Gio (there’s a theme here) and Ian.  The idea was for a run around Renfrewshire – keep the Tak away from Ian for a bit to ease his nightmares.  Tiny issue in that I wasn’t quite sure how long the route is.  Probably about 50 (ish) miles.  Not enough miles for Ian clearly, who cycled an extra 6 to mine.  Let the games begin.

The chosen route through Renfrew, Inchinnan and Bishopton is good to begin with as it means everyone is likely to stay together.  A little bit of stretching out on the hills and back together again.  Not too bad in terms of hills until we hit Greenock and move up the Old Largs Road.  How’s them legs now Ian?  From this point Ian fell back just a little until the last fast 6 down into Largs.  “Largs?  That’s miles away”! cried Ian, who had arranged a lunchdate (when will he learn – Sunday is for cycling.  A dinner date sure, but lunch, leave it out).

A ticket to (not) ride

Anyway, down into Largs and a couple of calculations.  Ian’s down 41 miles and he’s probably got another 21 to go (in reality another 30).  The big fella is as fly as a bag of monkeys.  He knows the Hairy Brae is around the corner and doesn’t fancy it.  However, it shall be recorded that he had to bail out this time to meet up with his lunch mates.  So packed the big chap on the Glasgow train and onwards for the rest of the team – all 2 of us.

Up the Hairy Brae (what a name) and a new buddy, Brian, is having a breather.  When he sees us coming he starts slowly moving along and once we pass, he clamps on the back.  Now at this point my hands were seriously cold.  I’ve either got to stop and spark a hand warmer or start turning the legs a little to get some heat going.  Well, go on Brian.  With his help, we got a right good train going and belted it back to Renfrew in double quick time.  One chap did seem to lose a little puff and didn’t take his turn at the front so far.  Not saying who, but his Garmin Connect monicker seems to have him listed as TheGtrain.  Train?  Ahem?

More miles in the bag, but the legs feeling it a little this time.  1000 miles in 9 days?  Not quite yet.

The Beast Inside

I was heading along to work the other morning, turning the pedals and absently-mindedly musing on events of the day when it happened.  I was passed by another cyclist.  Now this cyclist was not new to me.  A couple of weeks ago I passed him, with a casual good morning and headed on my way.  Clearly, I was significantly faster than he was, but hey that’s OK, nobody’s racing, right?  Anyway, several miles down the road, the chap was out of my mind and I continued in much the same manner as I had for the whole of this steady as she goes ride.  Turning slightly to the side I noticed that my friend had indeed put his foot on the gas and was pretty close behind me.  Clearly, I had spurred him on his way.  As it happened, I turned off just at this point and continued on the long, dark, lonely (but always enjoyable on the bike) road to work.

Last week I again saw a cyclist ahead of me and quickly reeled him in without any great effort.  Another “morning” and I noticed it was my buddy again.  This time I wondered what would happen as I passed him.  For him to stay with me he would have to seriously up his game, in a biting wind.  I ventured on, battling through the wind and generally feeling dog-tired and several miles down the road it happened – he went past me.  At this point that little inner voice said “on him”.  I gave it a wee push, but it just wasn’t my day and Joey (as we shall call him for no good reason other than it is the first name that comes to mind) was clearly motivated – “you shall not pass” was almost stamped on the back of his helmet as his legs whirred around on the pedals.  I rallied somewhat but never quite latched onto Joey and turned off to ponder the events of the day.  When I am behind Joey, he plods along in a carefree manner.  When I am ahead, he is Lance Armstrong.  The inner beast is unleashed.

And so to the other day.  Previously, I had cycled to work and then ran 4 brisk miles in the evening.  I expected to be tired on the bike in the morning, but felt pretty good.  And then Joey passed.  I hadn’t been thinking of him.  Generally, he only seems to be out once a week, but here he was just a couple of days after our last contretemps.  Again, who was the demon on a saddle, cranking the pedals as fast as he could?  Well, frankly it was me.  Before the brain has time to think, the body is saying “not today my friend.  Today you are mine”.  I relished clamping onto his wheel and felt him accelerating, but he wasn’t losing me today, oh no.  After a bit his tempo dropped a little and I sat there contentedly, letting Joey do the work but letting him know, “I’m here and I’m staying – and you can’t do anything about it”.

Joey had of course made one big mistake – he didn’t say hello as he passed me – a big no-no in my book.  Maybe he didn’t want to upset me as he whooshed past, or maybe he hoped to surprise me and get the jump on me.  Who knows.

The whole point is, all around me on the LEJOG team I see people who tell me they are not competitive, they only ride for fun, yet can often be seen with the veins jumping out of their necks as they turn their heads to see if they will indeed finish ahead of rider X up the Crow road.  Or they regale us with tales of the day they beat Gio back to the Egasa clubhouse (a year ago now, but the story is still often told).  Or the big laid back chap who’s doing more running than cycling just now – “just for fun”.  However, he’ll tell you his splits are 7.11 min/per mile, and you can see in his eyes that he’s disappointed they’re not 7.09.

It’s all just a game, and all just for fun.  But inside each of the LEJOG crew, and I reckon inside every cyclist, the beast lurks.  And the beast is competitive.

I’ll see you next week, Joey.  Bring your A game.  Not that I’ll be racing mind you.  It’s just for the joy of being on the bike……..