Category Archives: Training

The training log of the “Do It For Dee” team.
Come day 1 of the event the training logs in terms of volume will show John, Sammy, Ian, Mark, Gio, Bryan and David in order of most miles to least.
Won’t they?

Majorca training day 3

Tuesday. Sunshine. This is more like the weather we were expecting – blue skies, a slight breeze and the mercury rising to a nice 21 degrees (not that they use mercury any more, but you know what I mean). The Plan was to do an easy 50-ish, saving our energy for a big ride on Wednesday for Mark’s last day. We headed out of Alcudia, target Petra, a village to the south.

team on the road

cumulonimbus?

We turned off the main road and got a good session of taking turns at the head of the group, switching smoothly and rolling along at a decent pace, 18-20mph or thereabouts, not being too badly dented by the occasional rise in the road (not proper hills so I am told) or the wind.

petra_bikes

Just a few cyclists and bikes in Petra

We arrived at a square in Petra filled with cyclists sat around eating and drinking, so felt obliged to partake as well. Chips, cakes, coffee and juice were taken on board, and several photos of the hundreds of bikes and cyclists snapped.

cake

Obilgatory cake picture next to 'limon' drink with a mere 31g of sugar in it.

We headed out of Petra, wanting to arrive at the next village on our route, Sineu. A slight mis-turn found us taking a climb up to a monastery at the top of a fairly decent climb, hairpins and blind corners (the usual for round these parts). We hit the top as a group, parked up and took in the view – you could pretty much see the whole north of the island, probably the whole place if you took the time to climb the tower itself.

Monastery wall, overlooking north Mallorca

We weren’t up for that, so headed down, returned to Petra and took another road out, back on route to where we wanted to go.

top o monastery

ok, back down the hill and then go that way...

Sort of. We knew we wanted to take a right somewhere along the road we were now on, I was in the lead, Mark called a right, and we turned up an ok looking road. Not far along, we realised this road wasn’t going anywhere except to a quarry. Every Majorca cycling holiday should take in a quarry, highlight of the week.

quarry

Nice quarry!

We turned around, back to the ‘main road’ and followed it, eventually hitting Sineu (not much to see except the railway) and exited it toward Llubl. We arrived in Llubl, and stopped at a cafe for a quick drink, but no-one seemed to be about to serve us, so we pushed on. We tagged on the back of a group of 9 or so folk seeming to be going our way, so our pace increased a notch until we got to La Puebla where we took a different route. We found ourselves on a busier road to Pollenca, taking turn about at the front on a mix of ups and downs, the wind against us for most of it.

mark beer

mmm, beer

ian beer

mmm, beer

david beer

mmm, beer

We stopped off for a welcome beer in Pollenca itself, enjoying the sunshine and a bit of chat with some cyclists at the next table. We then headed home, a similar route to our first days outing, and similarly got a bit lost missing a turn or two at the round-a-bouts but eventually getting it right and arriving home in one piece. Our 50 miles  turned out to be 65.97 miles, but a decent pace of 16.2mph average.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/169082598

Here’s hoping the weather holds for the rest of the week.

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Majorca training day 2

day 2. Monday. Raining again. Went for breakfast late on, hoping the rain would stop. No luck. Some more hardy team cyclists, rain gear on, passed us on a nearby road as we retreated indoors to plan what to do. Blogged day 1, taking ages to upload the pictures due to shoddy internet connetion. The weather was clearing, but still raining on and off, not  looking good. Lunched on site too, and as we returned back to the apartment, all agreed we had to do something on the bike, so a 40-ish miler to Cap Formentor, the NE tip of the island was suggested – a shortish ride to a hill (surprise) followed by some more up and downs to the lighthouse at the end of the road.

We set off, what rain-gear we had on, to find the temperature was picking up a bit and the rain was holding off, so shedding a few layers we moved on through Alcudia and on to Port de Pollenca on easy flat roads, covering about 9 miles or so before the climb up Formentor with ease. The climb itself was straightforward enough, with us passing and being passed by a handful of other cyclists with a Hola! or Hi, the occasional car dodging by us too. Mark was worried about his knee, so hit the hill with gusto to get it working and judge the likelyhood of it holding out the full trip.

Formentor

Top of the hill, no brewery in sight.

We hit the top for a short break and regroup, a couple of photos and quick swig of water then headed down the slope at speed, slowing for the inevitable hairpin bends. We were soon on the flat, but Mark’s knee was not holding up as well as he would like, and having done this route before decided to call it a day and head home, to save making his knee any worse for the rest of the week. David and I headed on.

fine road

Roads as good as home

The road surface was not up to the quality of what we’d seen so far, more like some of the worse B-roads from back home, but we carried on regardless, taking each bump as it came. The road undulated on for another few miles, before hitting a tunnel through the hill. The tunnel gave us a new problem, as although it was straight, it was long enough to cause us a bit of an issue with seeing where we were going in the gloom. Sunglasses off for David and we tried to keep to the right side of the road, ditches either side threatening to unseat us, but we made it through without any incident. The rest of the 5 miles or so to the end of the road passed without incident, though some of the steeper parts didn’t bode well for the return journey.

cap formentor

ok, we made it up, but now we have to go back again?

We soon arrived at the last short climb to the lighthouse, left the bikes to take a few photos and take in the view. Photos taken, we grabbed a drink and a muffin in the cafe, checked the time and reckoned we’d easily make it back along the road with daylight to spare.

Cap Formentor

smile, its not raining, yet...

However, we got moving swiftly as the sky was turning a bit grey and looking none too pleasant. We headed down the short hill from the lighthouse, up a brief climb and for the next few miles battled the wind and poor road surface as we headed homeward on a mix of up and downward slopes.

twisty

catch the car, win a prize

Just as we approached the tunnel, hail started to hit us, so when we cleared the tunnel, we stopped short under an overhang to wait it out, with 2 other cyclists having taken the same decision. It soon cleared, so they headed out, followed by us, the road now mostly downhill, back to a relatively flat, slightly downward sloping section of the route. We made good time, passing our hail hiding buddies on the flat, soon leaving the poor road behind and beginning the climb back up to Formentor. We set a steady pace up the hill, granny ring (the smallest of our 3 cogs) coming in to play early in the ascent, taking it easy all the way to the summit. At one point we thought the 2 hail-hiders were making an effort to catch us, but we lost them following a short burst along a flatter part of the climb. We stopped at the top for a quick gel and water break, then headed down the hill.

formentor

the top of Formentor, on the return leg

This downward section we mostly free-wheeled, aware of the cross-wind at certain sections, only occasionally putting in a bit of effort to keep the speed up on flatter parts of the descent. The last section we sort of broke the speed limit, our 30+mph to the last round-a-bout above the 50kph speed on the signs. No police around, so no worries.

The homeward stint was only blighted by a bit of GPS mis-directing, taking us through Port de Polenca, trying to take us down one-way streets or non-existant paths. Using a bit of parellel road following, we were soon back on track, and hitting a solid 22mph along the flat heading to Alcudia along the coast road. The Garmin again tried to direct us along a busy main road, which we ignored and took our route from the previous day, but it soon recalculated and took us back home along our preferred road. Minutes later we were back home, just shy of 42 miles, a hilly average of 14.1mph. Not a bad result considering day 1’s torturous climbs.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/168787499

Majorca training camp day 1

day 1. Sunday. Not very sunny…

sunny BelleVue

Sunny Alcudia

Up and at em early-ish for a buffet breakfast to load up on calories and carbs, then back to our room to change and get on the bikes. We could hear thunder in the distance, and see flashes of lightning. This wasn’t looking so good. Before long the rain was hammering down as we watched from the balcony. Not ideal cycling weather, so we waited, watching the F1 on the tiniest TV in the world. The weather broke, the rain stopped and with the sun trying to get out we set off. We’d preloaded the Garmin with a sort of route of where we wanted to go as a “just in case” but hit the bike hire shop for a map, and while we were there, a rain jacket for David. A bit of round the houses to find the best road to where we wanted to get to and eventually we started to get the miles behind us. We were soon on quiet country roads, passing farms and orange groves, heading towards our first climb at Lluc. As we hit the town on Inca, the heavens opened, we got a soaking as we pedalled furiusly to find a cafe to hide from the rain. We soon found one, and drenched we had coffees and coke, while we tried to dry out hoping the rain would stop.

Our wait was rewarded some time later, the rain easing off, nearly stopped, so we hit the road again in a light drizzle, got a bit lost trying to get by the railway lines, but got on the right road as the rain stopped completely. This was more like it. The incline at Lluc was upon us, 3 miles or so of hairpin turns taking us up around 500m to the summit. We set a solid pace, around 9mph or so, each of us getting a steady rhythm, Mark leading us up with the occasional burst to get the worst of the corners out of the way. We determined not to stop til the summit, and we did so, arriving at the garage/ cafe at the top satisfied with our effort. We parked the bikes with the dozens of others, and grabbed some pizza and more coffee/ hot chocolate.

top of Lluc

After the Lluc climb, before pizza

The sun was out, and with Sa Calobra around 5 miles ahead, we decided to give this monster hill a shot. The ‘mostly downhill’ route to the descent included a fair amount of climbing, nothing major, but enough to require small rings and slow speeds. We stopped at a small view point part way to the hill, where we could see the hill below us and the valley stretching for miles in either direction. I nervously posed with the others (a huge drop behind us with only a tiny wall at the edge), while we got a few passing tourists to take our pictures.

Looking down on Sa Calorba

Back on the bikes and we moved on to the last climb before the 5 mile descent of Sa Calobra itself. I took the back, not particularly confident in my hire bike or myself as we were hitting 20-30mph on the straights, dropping down to a crawl for the twisty hairpins.

A pretty big hill...

We were soon at at the base of the hill, for some more quick photos and a refuel in the cafe of strange pies and giant chocolate brandy cake.

Giant chocoloate brandy cake

The ascent – no other way back – was before us, a time check (6.15) and we were now a little worried about getting home before dark. We set a steady pace of 6-7mph and again determined no stopping. The climb was on, hairpin after hairpin, the occasional car passing us carefully, legs slowly turning the cranks and each corner passed us.

back up the big hill

back up the big hill

I grabbed a quick couple of photos on the move then passed my little Canon over to Mark for some more on bike shots. We made the last few turns and the top of the climb came into view, the biggest climb on the island done. On we went, but the climb was taking its toll, and injuries were thrown into the mix, making the of the end of daylight all the more real.

Hairpin bend number 34

Hairpin bend number 34

Fortunately everyone was able to push through, and after a few more miles of rolling ups and downs, we were rewarded with a long descent to Pollenca. We filtered through the narrow streets, wishing we could stop off for a beer or two in the local cafes and bars, but on we pressed, out on to the main route to Alcudia. We were setting a blistering pace, racing to get as far as possible before night fell. I’d donned my flourescent jacket, and switched my rear helmet light on, so took the back of our trio, as we made town in the dark. Some swithering about the actual way from town to the apartment, then we hit a half recognised road and my Garmin now seemed to be making sensible route decisions so we followed it and were home, tired but
happy to have completed the climbs and a total distance of 83 miles done, David’s best to date.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/168677420

Easter Challenge

I decided to take advantage of the two Bank Holidays at Easter and set myself a challenge of completing 300 miles on the bike over the four days. The aim was to take it as a shortened trial run and to see how I would cope with getting on the bike and doing decent miles for a few days in a row.

Friday was a late start as I had to do some IT work for one of the LEJOG sponsors, Adam Laurie Properties, so I set off  just after 2:30pm hoping to get some good miles in on familiar roads with some decent hills.  Things were going well as I headed through Bathgate, over the top of the “Bathgate Alps” into Linlithgow and onwards towards Winchburgh when the rain started. I ploughed on through Ratho and up into Balerno. At this point I turned into the strengthening breeze which was now carrying the rain, it was getting hard going.

Rain, rain go away . . .

I fought my way down the A70 almost to Carnwath before turning back for the final 15 miles, wind behind back to Livi. What a contrast to the battle outwards.

Day 1 : 65.36 miles; 4hrs:4mins:39secs; av speed 16.0mph. Garmin link

Saturday meant an early start as I had to be in Glasgow at a decent time as Julie and I were off to Big Al’s 40th party in the evening and I had some big miles planned. The morning was still as I headed off past my golf club, Harburn and out on to the A70 towards Carnwath (been here before?). I continued on past Carstairs towards Douglas. I was really enjoying the good quality road surfaces of South Lanarkshire but the legs were starting to grumble a bit on the uphill sections. As I passed under the M74 I joined what will be part of our LEJOG route (Day 6, Lockerbie to Balloch) which put a bit of life back in the weary legs and got me to thinking about just how big a challenge we are undertaking. Just after Muirkirk I turned off the A70 and on to the rolling B roads towards Galston. The ups were short and steep but the downs were great fun; fast and flowing making the miles fly past. After a short stop at an exotic lunch location in Galston (my Facebook friends will know what I mean) I headed through one of Scotland’s best know villages . . .

I'm in a hurry to keep cycling . . . so Moscow!

By this stage I was in North Ayrshire and cruising through some familiar towns and villages; Fenwick, Stewarton, Dunlop and Lugton. The road up to Barrhead was lovely (honest!) my speed was up and I was flying. A train passed on the line up from Kilmarnock with Celtic scarves hanging out of the windows and a loud rendition of Championeeeeees. I chuckled along and my inner song was set for the rest of the day! The roads down into Glasgow flashed by and before I knew it I was doing a quick round the block in Shawlands to tick over the 90 miles for the day.

Day 2 : 90.17 miles; 5hrs:40mins:19secs; av speed 15.9mph. Garmin link

I took it easy-ish on Saturday night at Al’s 40th in Bishopton. A few bottles of Magners but nothing significant . . honest!

Sunday morning was an even earlier start but meant some company for the day with a couple of my LEJOG chums, Big J and Turbine(?). I cycled the 6 miles to our Renfrew meet up and off we went on one of our familiar routes round Renfrewshire (and Ayrshire?). The wind was up and we headed out to Bishy; my legs were happy for me just to sit on the back of the line and let the two fresh boys take the strain. The first slight incline and I was dropped . . . the boys waited for me to trundle up the first couple of hills and we soon regrouped in Greenock. As we headed up the Old Largs Road I heard the dreaded sound . . . ppssssssssssssssssssssssssttttttttttttttt! A puncture up front and the lads headed back to help me repair it.

It was nice to have some chat while we cruised over the tops. As we descended into Largs the drizzle started, I was getting used to this. Next came the bit I had been dreading most, The Hairy Brae. How would my legs cope with this beast, 3 miles with the first mile and half of gradient 8-12%. Again the other two shot off and I settled into a nice rhythm but a lot slower than normal. Before i knew it I was arriving at the top . . no dramas. We settled into the train, 0.5 miles each at the front, wind behind . . . we were motoring. The last climb of the day out of Lochwinnoch soon arrived. Again, I trudged up; again the boys waited for me, this team thing is quite good, actually. The final 10 miles from Bridge of Weir were the highlight of the whole four days . . we hammered along in formation averaging 25mph swapping every 0.5. Back in the Frew . . I was done. A great team day out and I took an easy cruise back to my lovely Easter lunch courtesy of my Bro-in-Law, Brian and family.

Day 3 : 76.31 miles; 4hrs:44mins:19secs; av speed 16.1mph. Garmin link

Monday . . the final day . . back on my lonesome . . did I have motivation for this? I enjoyed a long lie after the late night finish of The Masters and a leisurely breakfast with Julie and Aiden whilst I mulled over a route for today. I needed roughly 70 miles to achieve my goal of the 300 total for 4 days. Where to go? I then remembered Big J talking about how nice the roads are in the Borders . . and quiet too. I thought back to the tough route of the Bethany Sportive  last June; I would muster something together from that.

So I’m on the M8 almost at Edinburgh . . . argh . .the Garmin is still attached to my PC at home. Doh! An even later start . .

I’m off and running with a couple of miles on the A7 to loosen the legs and it’s back into the wind as I head up the first climb; it’s long but only 3-4% and them I’m freewheelin’ into Innerleithen. Time is getting on so I decided to stop for a late lunch . . . toastie and a coffee . . . lovely. As soon as I step out of the cafe it start raining . . heavily. Again upwards and then downwards and upwards etc etc. Is there any flat on this route? I turned left on to one of my favourite climbs, The Swire. It’s a couple of miles, it’s steep but the scenery takes the mind off any pain.

View from The Swire

Top of The Swire.

The remainder of the route is VERY rolling. By this stage my legs are pretty done and I’m relying a lot of getting out of the saddle to get up the hills but I made it back to the car and the goal of 300 miles was in the bag!

Day 4 : 74.05 miles; 5hrs:3mins:31secs; av speed 14.6mph. Garmin link

All 4 days in numbers : 305.89 miles; 19hrs:32mins:49secs; av speed 15.6mph; elevation gain 5204m; calories burned 11,452.

All that is left for me to thank Julie and Aiden for their love, support and understanding whilst I went awol for 4 days over the Easter holidays! xx

Edinburgh and back again

Sunday. Easter Weekend and I’d an invitation to go see friends in Edinburgh, so a perfect chance to give my new toy, a Garmin Edge 800, a solid test. Not really sure of the best way to go, so I’d plotted a route on bikeroutetoaster and exported it to the Edge. The course was mostly bits of A-road trying to follow the M8 fairly closely, to keep it reasonably short and hopefully avoid too much traffic, guessing most folk would be on the M8 itself. The unit lived up to my expectations, giving decent warnings of upcoming turns, round-a-bouts and anything else requiring a change in direction. The first section of my route out of Glasgow gave it a bit of workout, as a section of the London Road is closed to traffic, causing the Edge to bleep away as I took the diversion and went “off course”. It set about recalculating a way to get back on track, so not so different to car sat nav, but with all the extras of a bike computer (cadence, HR monitor, speed etc).

top of the hill at Shotts

.

The rest of the route went as planned, the only mishap when I stopped atop a hill around Shotts to take a photo, stopped the Edge and forgot to restart it until I’d been zooming downhill for about 4 miles, messing up my stats. Oh well. This roughly marked the halfway point, and it was pretty much all easy downhill from then on – this is what cycling should be all about – down/ flat sections and easily hitting 20mph+.  Just over 2 hours and a nice average of 19.1 mph, with the bonus of no real near-death experiences with cars on the A-roads. I arrived at M&Ts in time for a late morning bacon roll and soon had a beer in my hand followed by a fine afternoon of great company and great food. Yum.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/166316361

Monday. I’d already loaded the return route on the Edge (using TCX converter to reverse the route from bikeroutetoaster) and set off sans-hangover (good call on some sensible drinking) after thanking my hosts for a great previous day/ night. The Edge immediately tried to take me ‘the wrong way’ as I reckoned the route I take by car would actually be quicker than the route I’d plotted previously. I ignored its beeping and carried on, soon to rejoin the plotted route. The return leg was not such a joy, as the weather had turned for the worse, a bit colder, wetter and the westerly wind making things not the best for cycling. Got to practice using the small chain ring, battling head winds and the first 20 miles of uphill giving me more than enough climbing training. I counted off the miles to Shotts and the relief of the downward section. The constant drizzle somewhat sapped the fun out of the downhills, but focussed on getting my average speed back up to 15mph to take my mind off how wet I was getting. I was soon on familiar roads, so switched the Edge’s screen to show the ‘stats’ instead of the map, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the unit would automatically switch to the navigation screen at turns/ junctions then back to the stats again. Handy feature, will stick to using this method in future trips. I was soon home again, managed to get the 15mph average, so happy enough with that bearing in mind the conditions.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/166316334

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

Models

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).

Enjoy.

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111 miles

Sunday. No ‘team’ ride on the table, so was planning on a solo effort until Mark M texted to ask if I wanted to join him and Mark D on a Sunday outing. Turned out it was to be a ‘biggie’, 80 miler to Dunoon, with the option of getting the train home or forging on for a 100+ miler. Sounded like a good challenge to me, 9.30 am kick-off, so why not give it a shot? Got round to Mark M’s a bit early, so a few minutes wait while he stocked up on sarnies and other goodies before we headed along to meet Mark D to head to Anniesland and beyond. The wind was up, though tolerable, was having an impact on our pace, knocked down to just shy of 17mph by the time we hit Helensburgh (last time we were in the mid 18s). On to Faslane and a small 100m climb past Garelochhead before passing along Loch Long on our way to Arrochar.

coffee and cake stop

coffee and cake stop

We stopped for a brief drink (coffee/ hot chocolate) and scone (jam + cream) at the Village Inn, about 40 miles done, and a big hill just around the corner, known locally as the “rest and be thankful”. I’d heard of this, but don’t remember ever travelling up it, in a car or otherwise, so not sure what to expect.

Mark D and Ian

40 miles, I'm not tired, even if I do have a flag in my ear

Mark M and Mark D

the Marks enjoying the brief food stop

Our pace dropped as we took on this climb, the Marks allowing me to keep pace, slackening off if I dropped off the back to allow me to regain contact. After 20 minutes or so of this slog, we reached the top, and were rewarded with a 3-4 mile downhill section ending in Ardno and St. Catherines. Just shy of 60 miles and around 4 hours of cycling, my left knee decided it had had enough, and thought it should let me know by inflicting some pain on me. Not enough to stop me carrying on, but harsh enough that I knew about it with each turn of the crank. Drugs required. A garage stop allowed me to grab a 50p pot of paracetamol and Mark M to refill his bottle and we were on our way, with me no longer taking any turns at the front to nurse my knee on the remaining dozen miles to the ferry at Dunoon. Our pace was soon helped by a 12 strong group of club riders, we tagged on the back as they passed us, gaining the tow for the remaining half dozen or so miles to the ferry. Mark D joined the group proper, taking his turn at the front, myself and Mark M stayed at the back, with him pointing out to me how the change-overs at the lead worked so ‘next time’ I’d be able to put in my turn at the front. The hardest part of this group section for me was the corners, I’m still not quick enough on bends so the concertina in on the slowdown into the corner then the follow through on to the straight catching me out on several occasions, causing me to put in a burst of speed each time to regain the back of the train. Still, a welcome help to get us to the ferry terminal just as the ferry arrived.

A quick jaunt on the ferry, chatting to some of the other riders and we were docking in Gourock. A couple more paracetamol for my whining knee, and I took the decision to carry on rather than taking the train home. Whats another 30 miles when you’ve just done 80? That, and I was determined to get a 100 miler in the bag. Through Greenock and up a 200m climb for an easy descent on the back roads to Bridge of Weir, the GPS watch counting ever towards the 100 miles. We were making excellent time, the wind at our backs most of the way, when Mark M hit a rogue pothole, blowing out his back tube. A short delay while this was fixed, his odd (to me) rims causing problems engaging the gas inflators, resolved by my more traditional hand-pump, then we were back on our way.

The 100 for me hit just at Linwood, my first ever ‘century ride’ done in 6 hours 40-ish. Well chuffed with that, as we began the start-stop riding into Paisley and the final 10 miles into Glasgow. The group split at Govan road, me heading east (I was late for dinner with Mr & Mrs M), the Marks west for a well-earned post-ride pint.

111.57 miles, 16.7mph average and a guessed-at-by-the-watch 7,777 calories burned. More cakes for me!

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/163892302

Round and Round

With the LeJOG team in various parts of the world, a solo ride was on the cards for me on Sunday.  My normal solo ride would normally involve the Eaglesham moor at some point but I have a tendency when cycling alone to let my mind switch off up until the point where someone in flip flops and a basket on the front of their bike passes me which only then spurs me back into action.  Also, having unfortunately had to work on Saturday, a long day in the saddle wasn’t going to happen.  In the end, I opted for a short sharp shock where concentration would be essential, 2 circuits of the Lennoxtown loop which takes in the mighty Tak Ma Doon and Crow Road hills.  26 miles each time round.

Pre cycle preparation

However, no matter what preparation is done there is always something forgotten.  It’s not like riding a bike as a child, when you jumped on your bike and went. This time I find my Garmin is not charged so no on the road output for me, it might be a good thing, at least I won’t worry about my average.

Last week might have brought out the  summer bike with me but it was back on with the winter clothing.  As I arrived at Lennoxtown, the temperature gauge on the car was showing 0 degrees!

Cold outside

I load up ‘Map my ride’ on my phone as an alternative to the Garmin but can’t watch while in the saddle, so all I need to worry about is riding.

Round 1

Off I go, the roads are quiet and it’s a beautiful day all round, no worries about ice on the road even though it’s a low temperature.  I am feeling good, don’t know that my heart rate is or speed is but it’s all going well – old school – just riding for fun.  Couple of miles before the Tak ma doon, I pop my first gel of the day.  Not my usual brand, but it was all they had in Asda but goes down well.  I turn into the Tak Ma Doon rood but soon find out it is not the Tak Ma Doon road but the wee side street 5 yards before, the car coming out the junction put me off!  So I U turn and up I go up the right one.  This is a hill that used to hold a lot of fear, but doing it myself on the new bike it feels ok, possibly because I am not watching the G-train shoot up in front of me and feeling the need to try and catch up.  I pass Kilysth golf course, it’s a golf course I have played and my minds starts debating about how I am going to squeeze in any golf this year.  Golf and Cycling, the  2 hobbies that require the most time out of the diary.  I push on and upwards and stop at the car park at the top, where I usually see the rest of the guys waiting on me but there is not a soul today.  I take a picture of the horizon and set off again.

Round 1, Top of the Tak

Straight downhill, which is always marred by having to slow down for the ford at the bottom and never being in the right gear when going up the wee hill at the other side.

I push on along the Carron valley, there is a bit of wind coming into the face and I am having to work hard.  I pass a farm giving away ‘free manure’ but decide now is not the time to fill up.  I had forgotten how bad the road surface was along here, soon to be feature on Sky ‘When road surfaces go bad’.  It’s a beautiful scene, no other cyclist at the moment or anyone else.  I finish the bit around the loch and start heading downhill to the start of the Crow road.  The start of the Crow road is the worst, and there is a break and then it’s bad again but after that it’s ok, steady as she goes.  When you see the fir tree with the Christmas decorations you know the worst is over and you can start to look forward to the downhill.  I am starting to see some cyclists now coming up as I am going down, it’s hard to acknowledge when you are going fast but I do my best.  I normally like to check out their bikes as well, but it’s time to concentrate, there is a big bend coming up, not sure I want to hit the ramblers in the car park.  I get down without incident and have a quick stop at the car.  A Nakd bar and a check of the phone, battery has went from 42% to 13% running map my ride, it’s not going to make round 2.

Round 2

Off again, and I think a bit more effort is required.  It’s only 09:30 so things are still pretty quiet.  Newspapers and rolls are being bought for Sunday breakfast as I leave Lennoxtown.  It’s fairly flat so I try and push a big gear.  Nothing much of incident on the way to the Tak Ma Doon round 2, lots of thoughts in my head but have not fallen asleep at the wheel yet.  I hit the Tak Ma Doon again, and I think I can feel it slightly more in the legs, possibly because I pushed harder on the flat.  Up past the golf course, and it’s looking busy now, more debate in the head.  I do love golf, and with the Masters starting this week, that feeling is sure to grow.  Might have to start getting up at 5 rather than 6 every morning to squeeze in enough cycling for LeJog.  Up at the top, I stop again and gaze at the slightly changing horizon, the sheep have woken up and are eating their breakfast, not too exciting by the looks of it, bit like some of the smoothies I have taken to drinking in the quest for cycling domination.

Top the Tak, round 2

So, it’s back down the other side and as I join the main road, a couple of cyclists are going by and I come in behind for a rest, but they are chatting so the pace is not good.  I go past them, but think I go off too fast but it’s no time now to slow down and face the embarrassment of them passing me again.  I give myself a good few minutes before I look back and luckily I can’t see them.  Back along the loch again and things are starting to liven up, I can see a couple of small boats with fisherman with rods looking for a bite.  I pass another couple of cyclists, although I think one is a tourer and the other guy is just having a chat with him.  I say my ‘hello’s’ and move on, swiftly again.  I pop another gel before the Crow Road again and then I see the sign for Lennoxtown as I turn onto the road, 7 miles.  In reality is 3 miles up and then relax, not too bad when you put it like that.  Up ahead, I spot a couple of cyclists up the hill a bit and set myself the task of getting up to them.  This would be an unknown phenomena for me but I see them standing quite a lot as they go so up think they might be struggling.  It’s a good goal to have and I feel myself gaining on them, I get the feeling that comes when you have worked hard for a while and things start to click.  I go by the first cyclist and then have a quick chat with the second, I get the feeling he is not pushing as hard as he could to support his friend but nevertheless an overtake is an overtake and off I go.  I am flying now and looking forward to the last stretch down to the car.  There is a bit of wind in the face, but it feels good to push the pedals downhill fast on the smooth road.  As I enter Lennoxtown, the temporary lights change to green and straight through I go, down to the car.

It’s 11:30 and 52 miles are done.  I put the powder in my spare bottle for my recovery shake, my loss % is only 5%, down 8% from last week and drink it down.  Bike on the car, radio 5 live on  and off home.  Arrive shortly after 12 and next up is the park, to the climbing frame with the wee man who is looking like the new Chris Bonnigton.  Go up Again?  Ok Again 🙂

Chasing buses

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

Cattlegrid at the bottom of Glen Fruin

Cattlegrid at the bottom of the climb up Glen Fruin

Climb up Glen Fruin

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

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

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

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

Sharapova goes to Largs

3 new tops, 1 new bike

ready to hit the road in the new threads

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

top of the hill

A short post bike fix break. And its sunny.

view

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

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

Loch Thom

Loch Thom

Sammy and Brian at Loch Thom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wun Tun

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

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

Blowing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…

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.

Fine Scottish Weather for Cycling

Emails sent mid-week trying to decide on a full group run had lead to a split of folk for Saturday and others for Sunday, so in the spirit of getting more bike miles in, I’d planned on doing both. So Saturday was to be Mark M, Mark C and myself, but Mark C had to pull out, leaving the two us. A rough plan of “40 ish miles” was made, with Mark calculating routes that would allow me to ‘escape’ if my knee injury resurfaced. We met at the BBC building, and headed towards the Paisley road to hit some countryside. We’d barely gone a mile before I showed my inexperience and messed up my stopping by forgetting I was clipped in and toppling over – at least I’ve learnt to fall left (saves the derailleurs from getting bashed) and realised that landing on my gluteus maximus is the best way to go. We soon got on our way, and approached the first hill of the day, a 200m or so ascent around the Glenliffer braes. Up we went in the pouring rain, the wind blowing, Mark sticking with me most of the time to offer advice and encouragement (and a bit of wind protection), but occasionally zipping ahead to get some challange and anaerobic workout for himself. Beyond the ‘summit’ the elements still against us, we picked up the pace a little, and I got some practice at ‘tailing’ Mark as much as I could, but the cross winds and wet conditions were not the best. The view lost in the mist and rain (I’m sure it would be very picturesque if only it could have been seen), I managed a few good stints of sticking to his wheel, but improvement is still required.

Mark was having a problem with his drive train, the chain making an occasional nasty clunk in a worrying fashion and not wanting to switch between the rings at the front, but we forged on to Howwod and then on to Lochwinnoch. Here we hit the second climb of the day, a more gentle incline of around 140m. The roadside ‘watch your speed sign’ picked our speed up as we passed, my regular 6mph climbing pace lit up as I slogged by, Mark flashing up a 12 mph burst. We soon reached the top and were rewarded with a long run down into Bridge of Weir, topping 30mph and making good time, with a fun, slam on the brakes corner to add to the mix. I was after a food break (still can’t eat and ride, need to practice that), so we escaped the rain in a small cafe for coffee/hot chocolate and cake.

mmm cake

mmm cake - free soft focus effect with misted up lens

Refueled, we headed back out, the chill from our damp gear soon gone with a fine pace being set, while playing with the traffic on a busier A-road heading into Paisley. Some stop-start riding while negotiating round-a-bouts and dodging cars – one who decided it was fair game to turn left right in front of me, missed it by inches. The final few miles went without incident, except for a mountain biker who had the audacity to overtake us at the lights, causing Mark to fly off, dragging me behind to ensure we regained our road-bike honour. We split a few miles further along, our homeward routes diverging, but a good 46 miles in the bag, and a decent (considering the weather) 14.2mph moving pace .

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/152687930

My plan for a 2 cycle-outing weekend didn’t come to pass, as Sunday I bailed, feeling worn out, having a slight head cold/ sore throat starting (excuse #145b) so decided to take a rest day rather than push my luck on the main group’s planned 60 miler.

Solo Sunday

The LEJOG training run for this week was set for Saturday, which I couldn’t make – had a stag-do to go to (2pm kick-off for beer, followed by curry, more beer, then some more beer). Hang-over was manageable, seemed to have recovered by late morning,  so swapped my came-with-the-bike tyres for some Conti Gatorskins. I only ordered them on Friday, so was pleasantly suprised when they turned up on Saturday – nice one Wiggle. These tyres have a kevlar layer and are supposed to reduce the chance of getting a puncture, recommended by other LEJOGers, so seemed a good idea as I didn’t want a repeat of last week’s flat. Took me a while to work out how to get the old ones off, new tyres went on easy enough, then headed out to do some laps of Glasgow Green.

conti gatorskin tyre

shiny new puncture proof-ish tyres

I adapted my 2.5-ish mile running loop for a more cycle friendly version (dodging the steps and a few kerb drops) and attempted to get something approaching a steady rhythm. I’d not quite appreciated how busy the paths were going to be though, as a little bit of sunshine and half of Glasgow seemed to have headed out to enjoy it, dogs, kids and generally not paying enough attention pedestrians making any chance of keeping a steady pace impossible. One particular dog owner thought nothing of calling their dog towards them as I was belting toward them both, causing me to jam on the brakes and come to a near halt, with a “sorry” from them and a “no problem” from me, quietly cursing them under my breath as I stood up in the pedals, moving away in the high gear I was left in. Certain parts of the loop, where the paths are wider, I was able to zip along at a comfortable 18-20mph, but on some of the narrower sections and switchbacks, was barely moving at all. After approaching the hour mark, and around 6 laps, decided to give it up. Not quite the 60 miler of the Saturday bunch, but got in a decent 15 miles @15.6mph average and my knee niggle from last week seems to be away.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/150803495

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.

Premier septet

Sunday. 12:30 (ish). A full seven-man cycle team ready to go on a cold Scottish afternoon. The LEJOG’s first full group cycle started off with a minor disagreement, quickly settled, over course and group options. This was soon overshadowed by issues with David’s bike (a loan from Mark Snr), as something was not quite right with the steering and brakes. Some head scratching and minor adjustments with a multi-tool, and it was deemed safe for him to continue (with caution) and to take it easy on the downhills. Our first target, the climb up the Crow Road, a route I now have done a couple of times, making tackling the hill a less daunting prospect.  We set off with the intention of staggering the climb, so that everyone arrived at the top at roughly the same time to avoid cooling down too much. I ended up solo for the first half of the ascent, but could see Mark M, David and Brian in the distance, a target to slowly work towards, knowing that behind me Sammy, John and Gio would soon have me in their sights. I’ve somewhat improved in my climbing ability, not having to resort to my lowest gear at all, while still turning the pedals comfortably. Upwards I trudged, enjoying the scenery and watching some sort of bird of prey circling overhead, knocking back a few slugs of lucozade on the lesser inclines. About half-way Mark M dropped back to join me, and the two of us chatted away while making steady progress towards the leading pair. As we crested the last rise or so, John and Gio powered up to us, with Sammy not far behind, and a quick pit-stop at the top was the order of the day. I began to roll to a stop, unclipping my shoe and attempted to put down my left foot (my foot of choice in such stopping situations) but hadn’t realised my shoe had re-engaged itself, so gracefully tipped completely over into the snow-covered verge, much to the amusement of my riding team. I was glad it was a soft fall, so neither bike nor me took any damage.

saddle adjustment

steering, brakes, and now the saddle needed a fix

Top of the Crow

Top of the Crow Rd, nice weather for cycling...

Some further adjustments to David’s bike and some refueling and we were off again, taking it easy on the descent due to the roads being only partially clear of snow – riding in the clear tracks left by cars. I took to the back with David on his hobbled machine, him braking hard to avoid picking up too much speed as we headed down into the valley. We regrouped at the bottom and set off 2 abreast in an attempt to stop cars from splitting us while overtaking.

replacing a tube

How many cyclists does it take to change an inner tube?

Not much further on, Fintry-ish, a puncture hit Mark M’s front, so we all stopped to pitch in, me keen to see  how a repair (or rather a swap) is done. Rather than a masterclass in what (I’m told) is an easy enough procedure, a sticking tyre and issues with inners and pumps resulted in a good 20 minutes and many hands not making so much light work of the change. Still, I reckon I now know how it should be done, so can head out solo (once the nights get a bit lighter) confident I can tackle a change of tube (well, as long as its the front, getting the back wheel off is a whole different matter).

We moved on, the group splitting again as time passed, the stronger riders striking out leaving the stragglers a short distance back, I fell in with the back group, enjoying the company at the back, a welcome change from my previous outings when the back group was usually me, solo. A short distance on, a regroup for a junction and direction choice, followed by a short hill which split the group again. Finding myself feeling ok, decided to chase the leading group, just to see if I could catch them. I reeled them in and was soon tucked in behind John, in a train with Gio & Sammy, and we sped on. As my turn at the front hit (“is it a mile or half-mile at the front?”) we arrived at some direction choices, so we stopped to allow everyone to regroup before moving on, assured everyone was heading the right way home.

As the light began to fail, and the back slowed some more, I took advantage of my luminous jacket, hat and bike tails lights to be the “rear-guard”.  The roads were getting busy with cars, some of whom don’t feel they need to give you much space as they go by, and I doubted the ability of some drivers to even notice my less colourfully garbed compatriots. It also let me take the last few miles easy, to be sure I’d complete a full training run (3rd time lucky!).

We arrived back a satisfied bunch, 49 miles or so and the first full team outing in the bag.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/147478672

A productive LEJOG planning meeting (with the obligatory curry) was to follow, with Mark Snr and Cameron joining the riders at ‘the clubhouse’ (Gio’s place). The support van sorted, route now fixed (near enough), accommodation booking jobs handed out and a few more organised group runs pencilled in to calendars, including a coast to coast and a ‘2 days of doing a 100 miles so we know we can do it’. Its all coming together, all I have to do now is convince everyone that this bike is the best way to do the 1000 miles this summer.

Tablet – Scotland’s greatest invention

For those unaccustomed to the world of long (or short for me at the moment) distance cycling, there exists a ‘condition’ known as the bonk (or Fringale as the French put it).  Essentially, if you don’t eat properly before the cycle and during the cycle your body can pretty much shut down and it makes it difficult to keep going at any sort of pace.

Unfortunately, I found myself in this position in yesterdays group training run.  This was a momentous occasion anyway as all of the magnificent 7 cyclists for Le Jog turned out (a blog entry in itself).  However, I found myself after 35 miles going along quite happily in the front group talking to Sammy only to find myself quickly staring into his back light (otherwise known as the abyss) which was getting smaller by the second, gallantly counting down from 10 to try and keep my pedals moving.  I am soon caught by the back group who initially think I am being a team player in helping them along but I thought the game was up for me.  I struggled on vainly to Strathblane where the rest of the guys were waiting.  I explained my predicament and out of David’s pocket came a block of tablet.  This peculiarly Scottish delicacy consists of sugar, butter and condensed milk formed into a hard block and if it came from a posh shop maybe a drop of vanilla.  One section was taken and then another and eventually David knew he wasn’t getting any back and the whole bar was gone.  Slowly, we set off again and life started to seep back into my body, and the pedals started to flow again and life was good.  The big nutrition companies will try and convince you that their latest sports gel will keep you going and has been formulated to the max but I think the Scots have known the formula for years….

See link below further about this, it can even happen to the best –  try Lance Armstrong.

http://www.30bananasaday.com/forum/topics/have-you-ever-bonked-real-hard

To Turbo or Not to Turbo

is a question I was asking myself. Turbo trainers, rather than being jet-powered running shoes, are in fact a clever device constructed around a metal frame, rollers and magnetic or fluid filled discs that let you clamp your back bicycle wheel in place, turning it into an in-door exercise bike. They come with various options, resistance settings, electronic read-outs, DVDs and PC connections that let you virtually scale the Alps from the comfort of your front room/ garage/ shed. Seems a cunning ruse to avoid the Scottish weather, city traffic, the dark and other excuses for not doing ‘proper’ cycling at all during the week when its just not the weather for it and you don’t fancy playing with the rush-hour traffic for a post-work cycle.

So, my question for those that have such devices, which seem to range in price from £100 to whatever you are willing to pay, is it worth getting one, or should I just wait for the weather to improve?