Category Archives: Gio

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.

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Fast Fathers Day Fifty Six

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magic Minted-peas

The Sunday outing – emails had been flowing during the week discussing a coast to coast in late June, which then turned into debate over a Lakes ride instead and ended with the decision of doing a “Fred” (named after Fred Whitton, turns out this is a 112 miles ride of 9 peaks, some hitting 15%+ – no easy feat). The end of this email exchange also sorted Sunday’s training ride, a plan to take in the Dukes pass run with an extra 50-odd mile extension via Crieff, for a 120+ run. This time there was the promise of a lunch stop.

train

the DIFD train in action

As this was going to be a long run, and the lunch stop was going to be timed to meet non-cycling family, needed to be up at silly o’clock for Big J picking me up at 7am for the start at 7:30 from the ‘club house’ (Gio’s place). We started as a 4 man group – Bryan, Gio, John and myself, with Gio intending to join us for the first 40 miles or so. The first 20-odd miles flew along, even with the wind against us we were easily topping 18mph average as we hit Aberfoyle and the climb up the Dukes pass.

bigJandGio

Big J and Gio on the Dukes

We rode up as a group, with only the last section splitting us slightly, Bryan dropping back a short distance. I barely had time to take a few snaps before he was with us, “I’m not a climber” as he pulled alongside. The descent went without incident, the only traffic a bus toiling upwards, giving us plenty of room as we streamed by.

view from the top of Dukes pass

what you doing right on our tail at the top?

Just after the 40 mile mark, a quick stop for farewells to Gio, as he turned toward Callander and home, the three of us continuing onwards to Strathyre. The road rolled for the next several miles, the sun growing stronger and the shadows it was casting through the trees making it hard to distinguish potholes from leaf patterns adding in the occasional clunk and jolt to the ride. John took the pace, holding us steady for a long stint, switching back to turn-about as we passed by the glassy calm of Loch Lubnaig, the shores dotted with folk enjoying the early sun. We were making good time, enjoying the excellent weather and were soon turning along the A85 at Loch Earn, passing campers and day-trippers scattered along its edge, with barely a hill to be seen. The nice level tarmac saw us to Comrie (home to a fine golf course) and it was only another 10 or so miles to Crieff and a welcome stop at Yann’s.

relaxing with a cold coke n water

 

Carol, Ewan, Heather, Niamh, Luke, Stephanie, Bryan and Ian

We sprawled on the grass or at the table and were served coke and iced water by the friendly staff while waiting for Bryan and John’s other halves, enjoying the sunshine and break from pedalling. They soon arrived, and we sat down for a fine lunch – not quite a cake stop, but just as good: onion soup with a cheese topping followed by rump of lamb with minted-peas and chips for me, others partook of mushroom soup, black pudding salad, Arbroath smokies with mains of La Potee (Toulouse sausage & ham broth), fish pie and eggs Benedict; the kids tucking in to fish gujons, lasagne and chips. The only slight downers to this fine feast were the grumpy folk at the next table over-reacting to the excited children, and having to pass on dessert from being stuffed.

the mighty steeds at rest

you can never have too much sun-cream…

Bottles refilled, we said our goodbyes to the families, and hit the road for the remaining miles. A steady climb taking us through Muthill, then down to Braco and to Dunblane before turning off to Doune. Here we made a short stop to grab some energy drinks, the chilled water in our bottles (well, mine and Bryans were iced by the folk at Yann’s, John had refilled from the tap) already warm. The temperature in the small square was hitting 33-34°C according to my Garmin, as I tapped in our target of Kippen into its GPS, getting us on our way to Thornhill and the hill beyond. We rode up the first section together, John and I pushed on a little harder on the next steep section, but by the summit we were all together again for the descent down into Fintry and the Crow Road hill.

We trundled along the flat section, John announced himself ‘done’ but as soon as the climb came into view, he forged by me. My ‘thought you were done?’ was replied to with a ‘last throw of the dice!’ as he stood on the pedals into the corner and pulled away. I stuck to my pace, sat on the saddle, feeling ok considering the 110 miles we’d now completed and just kept turning the cranks. John was still in sight, standing at every turn, but I was beginning to reel him in. Feeling a bit short of energy (the lamb and magic minted-peas wearing off!) I struggled with my pack of Zip-vit sweets, trying to pry the now sticky, half melted goodness out of the bag while maintaining my momentum. Eventually got one out, chewed it down, and returned to focussing on John’s back wheel in the near distance. After a few more minutes I was in touch, with not far to go to the summit. “Where’s Tubs?” he asked, “not sure” I replied, and we moved on together. We stopped at the top, Bryan soon appearing, and we waved him on, then followed for the ride down into Lennoxtown.

127 miles of red squiggly line

I missed my clips as I started off, the others were fast vanishing as I finally got my left shoe in, so I was playing catch up down the hill. Pushing hard, I glanced down at my Garmin, to see it reading 45mph (!) scaring myself a bit, so eased off as I passed the car park and the turn. The wind soon put paid to any speed I was carrying, and I could see John and Bryan ahead, folded over the bikes as they disappeared from my view round a bend. I caught them at the bottom, waiting for me at the turn. John lead us for the next section, but as I swapped to the front, I offered to take a longer stint, to which there was no dissent. Strangely still feeling strong, I pushed on, the others hanging on to my wheel for a change. Stopping only for lights and junctions, Bryan asking if I’d been on “the EPO”?, “nope, just feeling ok” as we completed the final miles back to Gio’s to pick up the cars. The only momentary struggle on the final short hill before home, I was well pleased to have been able to return the favour of many a ‘carry’ for the last miles of an outing! A sterling ride by us all, 127 miles done, a proper “LEJOG” distance completed in around 7 hours, average 17.6mph.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/182915931

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.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/164240321

We’re faster than an Audi A6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agoknee

Another Sunday, another LEJOG training run. Not such a big turnout this time, but four of this summer’s seven riders made the early 8.15 am start (Brian, Gio, John and myself), and were joined by a friend & colleague of Gio’s, Stuart (or is it Stewart?); though Sammy turned up in person to give his apologies.  We set off from Strathblane at a solid pace, but had barely got going before we hit our first hitch – Brian’s cleat on his left shoe was just not engaging in the pedal properly. A bit of faffing around didn’t completely fix the problem, but his decision was to go on.  We soon got into a good rhythm, with each rider taking their 0.5 mile or so leading the train over a good 15 mile stretch.

dodgy cleat in the Trossachs

We reached Aberfoyle and our first hill of the day, comfortably under the hour – the Duke’s Pass – a new hill for me, and a new challenge. I took it slow, tucking in behind Stu and Brian as I got a feel for the slope. As the climb continued, Stu slipped back and the two of us chatted about running, work and my cycling experience (or lack of!) . The gradient was not so bad, no real thigh-burning sections, and we made the summit without too much effort, though Brian, just ahead of us most of the way up, was still having a bit of bother with that left cleat.  A quick respite at the top, with a waiting Gio & John, then a nice downward stretch skirting round Loch Achray. Well, nice except for the tourist filled bus that came at me round a blind bend – in the middle of my side of the road, half-way down the hill. My brakes worked well, so collision avoided.

We were now again on gently rolling roads, so back into ‘train’ formation all the way to Callander, where we attempted to find a bike shop, with no luck. We headed south, toward Kippen and the second hill of the day. I took up my command position at the rear, again with Stu for company and we worked our way up the incline, the occasional zipvit energy chew and drink to keep us going. Just as were cresting the last rise, I was the lucky recipient of my first puncture. A thorn (or something spiky) into my back tyre, flattening it instantly. Another master class in tube changing commenced, with Gio in control, taking care to ensure the last bits of the thorn were removed from the tyre (nothing would be worse than replacing the tube for it too to be damaged). Brian got to try out his new gas cannister toy to fill the new tube, then we were on our way, downhill for a good stretch, working the pedals to get the chill from our stop out of our bodies. We soon arrived at Fintry, and a quick refuel stop (I must practice eating on the move) before taking on the Crow Road (“the right way round”). At this point my left knee decided to join Brian’s cleat in not working quite right. After a few of the early turns in the ascent, every rotation of the pedals was causing a sharp niggling pain just under my kneecap. As the hill continued, so did the pain, so reaching the top and being able to freewheel down was a great relief. The last 4 miles back to the cars was less than fun for me, trundling along barely breaking 10mph (unless going downhill). Still, got to the end in pretty much one piece and just over 60 miles in the bag:

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/149188679

Stuck an ice pack (good old Birdseye frozen peas) on knee at home, and hoping it goes away with a couple of days rest. Seems ok today, but will give it until Wed to ‘test’ it on a run.

Train Training

Sunday. 9-sh. This week I was in town, so headed out with the team for a training run on the wheels. Cycled round to John’s (6.5 miles or so) without incident, barring John’s friend Joey’s cousin, Frank, who followed me for half a mile before jumping a red light to go by me – not that I was racing, as I was happilly pootling along minding my own, saving my energy for whatever was to come. My Garmin 205, strapped to the handlebars with cunning use of an old light mount and a rubber strap from a mudguard I never used, had my average on this pre-training section at 16mph, not too shabby. Three of us hit the road, John, Gio and myself, our exact route a mystery to me (as always) but starting with a steady run out of Renfrew and into the countryside proper. Bananas and sport gels stuffed in my pockets, along with a trusty Mars bar and a new, second bottle cage taking my on-board liquid count to 1.5L or so, I was prepared this week for refueling on route.  The pace was fine for me, taking one stint at the front, but spending most of my time behind the more experienced riders. This has one drawback – wet roads. If you’re thirsty and not fussy about what you drink, you’re well catered for, just open wide and you’ll get a steady stream of gunk from the wheel in front. If not, you’ll be steadily bespeckled with road mank. Still, its all part of the fun of winter training.

On we went, hitting our first hill of the day, me into the lowest gear I have and taking it easy, J&G zipping ahead as if the change in gradient wasn’t there. No real issues, taking on a bit of lucozade as I climbed on, knowing they’d be at the summit, wherever that was going to be. In the end, it wasn’t too bad, so on we went through Kilmacolm and skirting round to Greenock for a cracking downhill section, hitting a record-for-me 37mph (though the uploaded data lists it as 36mph, meh) . My euphoria didn’t last long as a quick break for refuelling had J revealing the ‘next bit has a bit of nasty climb, its not a long one though…’. Hmm. First bit of the hill was ok, leading to a thigh-burner, which was thankfully short enough to manage without running through all of the fine selection of expletives I’ve learnt from my many years in Glasgow. Past Loch Thom and I’m starting to enjoy this cycling lark, great views and the terrain, though undulating, a bit more forgiving and no more thigh-burners. The team slipped ahead, waiting for me at the top of the last rise, chatting to a local + dog, leading to another great downward section to Largs. Now, I’ve been to Largs a few times, in the car. The main road is a ‘select low gear’ type as you come down in to the town. We’d be taking that ‘slight incline’ out of the place. It was around midday, I’m sitting on 41 miles for the day and have arranged to be back in Glasgow for a 1.30-ish lunch. Not going to make 20-30 odd miles with that nasty hill to start in 90minutes, unless I can magically average 20+mph… So again, plan B kicks in, as Largs has a railway station. Annoyingly, I’m still feeling fresh-ish (unlike a fortnight ago where I was far from it) but time is against me, so a £7.20 ticket tucked in my jacket and I’m sat in the station waiting for the 12:56 to Glasgow. J&G head off with my best wishes to take that hill and I kick back and wait for my train.

fastest this bike went all day
fastest this bike went all day, courtesy of ScotRail

Train is bang on time, but turns out this isn’t an express – it stops at pretty much every stop along the line, turning what I thought would be a 30min ride into over an hour. Was impressed by the handy velcro straps for holding the bike in place, though I doubt the other passengers were impressed with my dirt covered self (I found mud still stuck to my ears after I showered – ugh) . Texting on route turns lunch to coffee, arriving at Central at just after 2pm, hobble out of the place  (clippy shoes are no use for walking) and zip home on the bike to meet my lunch-now-coffee friend. Maybe next week I’ll finally complete a full training cycle…

Garmin link http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/145706996

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.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/145712130

Team Training 3 – Where are You?

LEJOG plans are slowly taking shape – transport in the bag, team kit chosen, sponsorships plans opportunities opening up, initial accommodation booked.  So how goes the team training? Hmmm.

2 of us out this weekend – me and Gio.  Sammy and Tubs skiing (separately) abroad, Ian visiting friends in Anstruther, Mark hopefully into his solo secret training, and there’s David (fair play to him he did cycle from Edinburgh to Uddingston again).

The weather on Saturday was honking – a howling gale and the rain lashing down – and bitterly cold.  So we concocted a strange little routine.  Head from Bishopbriggs to Lennoxtown and head up and over and down the Crow Road.  Then turn back and up and over and down the Crow Road.  And finally, up to the top of the Crow and turn round and back down – just too cold and horribly windy to to go down to Fintry and back up again.

So a good day in the bag working with adverse conditions, and a nice little spurt after the final descent when a fellow cyclist had the audacity to go past us (we’d passed him earlier) – a target.  He blasted along, and we sat with him and got the heat in the bones again.  Very nice.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/143871669

And so to Sunday.  Me and Gio again.  A recovery ride suggested by Gio, but the day looked so nice (apart from a fair old wind again) that the shout went out – let’s do the Tak and the Crow.  No ride can be described as a recovery with the Tak a part of it.

Another good day, with the pair of us working well together, crawling along the Carron Valley into the wind and keeping it tidy up the Crow – again.  Good miles in the bag.  Roll on next week.  And a bigger team?

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/143871632

Team Training 2 – Ian’s Lament

Nice to read Ian’s take on Saturday’s ride.  He’s a grand lad is the big guy and will make a great rider – but he’ll need a wee bitty of time….

The route was put together by the chief route organiser Sammy.  Me, him, Gio and Ian ( Mark’s not coming back out with us until he gets fitter – and he doesn’t like the way we ride).  Let’s get a bit of mileage in, but not too strenuous in terms of hills – in other words, no Tak, the hill by which we judge all other hills (cycling in Nice last year the rule still held true – how does the Col de la Madone [Lance’s hill] measure up against the Tak)?  If there’s no Tak, there’s got to be the Crow.  Ian’s first time up from this direction (and only his second time up at all).  We met the hill early on in the ride, and he did not make the mistake he did last time, which was to strain like a maniac (up the Tak) beside the others, and die a slow death for the rest of the ride.

Anyway, we headed on keeping it together on the flat and stretching out a bit on the hills.  All seemed well with the big fella up to Drymen and another wee hill.  G and myself battered on into the mist along with Sammy who stopped to ‘enjoy’ nature and take a couple of snaps.  Up and over the hill and down the other side to wait for Ian.  He duly arrived, but the end was nigh.

"Is that a busted baw blowing along the road"?

We headed towards Strathblane and I fell behind a clearly toiling Ian.  By now his legs could hardly move, but still he insists on pushing a way too heavy gear.  “My legs just spin without going anywhere on the lower gears”.  Half right – he wasn’t going anywhere, but I didn’t see too much in the way of spinning.  When I noticed that the big chap could not get his speed over 10 mph it was clear the jig was up.  This was riding on the flat.  Ian was now a burst balloon, and hence he was advised to bow out at the Kirkhouse Inn.  His tortured face seemed to show a bit of concealed delight.

At the end of the day, he got a good 42 miles in the bag – no one can take that away and it’s all fuel for next time.

Now we were down to 3 and me, Sam and Gio tore on towards Bishopbriggs in the gathering dark, getting a great little train going.  Managed to get the 15.1 mph average up to 15.8 mph by journey’s end.  A nice average of almost 19 mph for the last 13 miles.

The last couple of miles saw myself and Sammy crest the final hill and cruise on home.  The G man had run his race as his energy flagged for the final stretch.  However, he got home fine with no mishaps  (or if there were mishaps, we’re not telling.  Let’s see if he’s got a slant on the last couple of miles).

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/142154227

And so to curry, and the LEJOG meeting.  Beginning to shape up – the trip and the bodies.

Who’s up for next time?   Ian?

Lanterne Rouge… Presque

Saturday, midday-ish, set off on my first cycle of the year with John, Gio and Mark C. Dont have a record of the route (broken Garmin 405, see last post) but we were going round the Campsies (Crow Road), Balfron and various other bits of North of Glasgow that I don’t really know much. As per usual, the eary flat part of the run went fine, giving me a chance to practice riding with a group, trying to stay on the wheel of the man in front to get the benefit of the slip-stream. Took a turn at the front, doing my bit to help the team “train” move along. Still need more practice at this part of cycling, which I really wasn’t aware of beyond knowing that it obviously helps to be in the slip-stream of the guy in front. Our first major hill, Crow Road, the group split as the more experienced riders zipped off leaving me (quite happily) slowly crawling up the hill at my own pace. Had a short refuel stop at the view-point, before pedalling on to the ‘meet at the top’ where the others were starting to cool off while waiting for me to arrive. A quick mars bar and we were off again, downhill for a good stretch, giving me a chance to try and recover from the hill. Bit more mixed (but mostly flat) roads, and I was starting to flag, seems my return to fitness was not quite as good as I had thought. A mid-cycle route meeting was had, with my decision of “whichever way is shortest, I’m knackered” resulting in the ‘short route with a small hill” chosen and we were off again. A nice route lay ahead, not that I was enjoying the scenery that much as I again took to the back (someone has to fend off the oncoming cars!) but the ‘small hill’ didn’t seem that small as I made judicious use of the lowest gears I had. Relief wasn’t far away, reaching the top for a long, long downward stretch, but the climb had taken what little energy reserves I had left. A mile or two further on and I was dropping off the back with every slight hill we hit, so a roadside conflab with Big J was in order. Daylight was fading fast, I was shattered and going on in the dark was looking a bit risky, the decision was made to ‘retire’ at around the 42 mile mark (with ~10 mile to go). The others went on, to return in a car and pick me up. Next time I’ll get to the end…

photo of Gio, Sammy, Ian and John, prior to the cyclethe gang, pre-cycle (Gio, Sammy, Ian, John)

Post-cycle, curry and LEJOG meeting at Gio’s with most of the team present, with a few jobs assigned, flights booked and progress being made.

In other news, as of today have a new GPS watch to track my runs/cycles – a Garmin Forerunner 205. Took it out on a 5 mile run after work. It picked up the satellites in seconds, tracking my route perfectly, showing my 405 was a dudd. For those interested, you can see the stats for that jaunt at http://connect.garmin.com/activity/142287368

Now if I could just translate my running pace to the bike and build up my endurance a bit more, I’ll be sorted.

My wind problem.

So here I am, sitting in front of a blank screen, thinking about writing my first ever blog post. Takes me back to writing an essay at school. I even have a teacher demanding that my essay is completed and handed in today. Yes, Mr McGivern. Sure thing!

Julie and I were heading out on Saturday night in Glasgow to celebrate my birthday, 41, who’d have known. I decided I was going to cycle to Strathblane where my Mum, Dad and Sara were going to look after Aiden while we galavanted. It seemed as good a time as any to get some time on the bike and cycle over to Strathblane from Livi. One phone call led to another and before I knew it some of the LEJOG lads were getting together and my route was taking a detour over the Campsies.

I awoke on Saturday morning and could hear the wind in the trees outside. I was already dreading it! It was only a 20mph Westerly gusting 40mph. What’s not to like?

I set off into the monster wind and within 6 miles I was in the bike shop in Bathgate getting some running repairs. The brake blocks were completely worn through. My first time at Hooked On Cycling; nice guys; I’ll be back there for further repairs methinks.

Anyway, after the short interlude I was off in earnest. Up out of Bathgate, through Torphichen and past our wee cottage. Who can believe it’s over 10 years since we lived there? Through the Avon Gorge just to get the legs working; I was up out of the seat on that one, I can tell you. Onwards through Brightons and past Polmont Young Offenders! Who came up with this route?

After what seemed like an eternity into the gale I met up with John, Mark and Gio on the road between Banknock and Kilsyth. We headed off to take on my nemesis, the Takmadoon Rd. This beast runs for 4km out of Kilsyth up into the Campsies and is regularly above a gradient of 10% maxing out at 19%. Cycling with three whippets is one way to improve your climbing but my 90kg lead weight soon had me out the back door of the peleton.

I plodded my way to the top managing to keep the guys in sight which I was pleased with but I’m sure they’ll tell you they weren’t out of second gear! After the short decent to the Carron Valley we turned into the ever increasing gale. We formed the formidable Egasa train and were pretty much stopped in our tracks. I have rarely encountered a wind so strong when on the bike. We trudged along taking 0.3 mile each on the front. Without embarassing anyone it’s fair to say that the lead rider speed was variable on this section. Some of us have some work to do on the base endurance quite clearly! 🙂

At Fintry we turned to tackle the Crow Road . . the wind was behind . . Alleluia!! Off we tootled with a spring in our pedals and again the three whippets shot off and left me on the steeper, lower slopes. I paced myself well, dear blog reader, and slowly started reeling them in. I picked off the weakest first and then Gio was in my sights. As the gradient eased near the top I put in a Cavendish like sprint to nick the second spot at the summit!

The decent to Lennoxtown was a joy. Wind behind and on the lovely, new surface they have laid I maxed out at just over 42mph without even trying. Even had time for a wee look over to take in the view of the magnificent Celtic training ground!

We regrouped in Lennoxtown before the guys headed off towards Bishopbriggs and I turned to take on the monster wind for the final 5 miles to Strathblane. The mushroom soup that awaited me was well worth the effort. Thanks Mum!

Total distance ridden 52.22 miles with a vertical ascent of 1255m. That’s almost the height of Ben Nevis you know. A pretty poor average speed but into that wind it was to be expected. The Garmin output is linked below for the geeks amongst you.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/140037381

All comments on my first ever blog more than welcome!