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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…

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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.

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?