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The most essential bicycle accessory for LEJOG

DIFD custom headset cap

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

cap on bike

and installed on the bike

 

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Dumfries and cake

Long weekend, so what better to do than a few miles on the bike?

Friday. I’d checked the weather, and unusually there was to be a NE wind on the Friday, so a trip to Castle Douglas on the bike would see me getting the wind on my back most of the way, a nice 88 mile ‘warm-up’ for the Drumlanrig Challenge (62 miler) the following day and a chance to spend a few days at my Mum’s.  I set out around 10.30, as little weight in my rucksack as I could get away with, and with an easy pace in mind. First target, Eaglesham, and the moor road – a bit of a hill, but it looked to be nice tarmac and low on traffic on Google streetview, so a fair compromise. And of course, the pay off from going up hill, is the descent. When I actually arrived in Eaglesham, which was uphill all the way, found that the initial ascent to the moor road was a bit nastier than I expected, but dug in, stood up and got up without any problem, except for a bloke in a camper van messing around slowing/ speeding up then trying to park right in front of me. The road passes a nice wind farm and has a few boy racers, but the single track road has a cycle lane most of the way, so there was plenty of room for me. The descent soon began, and hitting 30+mph was easy, slightly regretting still having my winter Gatorskin tyres on, their higher resistance slowing me a bit. The B-road ended at the A77, now quiet due to the nearby M77, and downhill most of the section I was taking, allowing me to easily maintain 20+ speeds.

welcome to moscow

quick trip to Russia, minus your passport

I turned off towards Waterside and Moscow (yup, there’s a Moscow in Ayrshire) then on to Galston, where my el cheapo B-twin bottle holder rattled loose, the metal prongs working free of their plastic mounts – no chance of a fix, so I tossed it and put the water bottle in my ruckack. Not ideal.

I coninued along the 716 until it reached the A76 and my big mistake. I’d not checked this part of the route out, and it turned out to be a very busy road, with a disproportionate amount of bad drivers towing caravans intent on wiping me out. The closest near-miss I was virtually brushing up against the guys caravan! Still, the fear of being splattered kept my average up. Just beyond Cumnock I escaped the 76 onto more bike friendly B-road, low on traffic, but big on hills.

some tarmac in Ayrshire

some tarmac in Ayrshire – potholes optional

Throw in a bit of ‘road closed’ fun (duly ignored by pedalling me, gate across the road easily climbed and bike dragged over) and poor tarmac on some of the descents (bone shaking) and I was soon at Dalmellington and decided to take a short break for some eats.

dalmellington

Dalmellington – on the shortlist for my holidays next year…

The local shop didn’t have much choice, so a chicken wrap it had to be, a Twix for a bit of a calorie boost, washed down with the juice from my bottle and then I was on my way again. The climb out of this small town lead on to the A713, a road I’ve driven in the car a few times without realising how much of it was uphill nor how bad some of the surface is for cycling.  Still, there was a welcome distraction from these issues from a load of Dutch rally drivers – all in Minis, some classic, some the modern version, all zipping by me, many appearing to be lost or taking circular routes and passing by me several times. It wasn’t long before I’d passed Carsphairn and the end of any significant uphill sections, but still 20 miles or so to go. The wind wasn’t being as helpful as I hoped, not that strong, but at least it wasn’t in my face for any significant time.

a713

the A713, a fine piece of cycling tarmac

I could see Loch Ken ahead, so knew I hadn’t far to go, but took a quick break to refuel and stretch my back – carrying a rucksack messes with your stance on the bike a bit, so I was getting some stiffness which I kneaded out with my knuckles. Refreshed, I carried on, noticing my average was still over 16mph, so determined to keep it there and to get to Mum’s for 5pm, dug in for the last few miles. I was soon on the familiar roads of Castle Douglas, then on to the back roads to Gelston, the end in sight and pulled up bang on 5pm. 88 miles in the bag, not feeling too worn out and looking forward to the Drumlanrig the next day.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/174649327

Saturday. I’d knocked the idea of cycling to Drumlanrig on the head – 34 extra miles each way was going to push things a bit far, particularly if the sportive was going to be ‘speedy’, and I didn’t really fancy a 5am start. So, I borrowd me Ma’s car and drove it. Just as I was approaching the Castle turn off, my phone buzzed away in my pocket – the others wondering where I was. I was nearly there, so left it until I was parked. A quick phone to David established they were in the queue for their numbers, so I headed over to the tent to meet them, watching the earlier starters head off. I spotted David and Bryan, our team kit easily picked out from the crowd, just getting the numbers as I approached. A few quick hellos and we returned to cars, attached our numbers, swithered about gloves and overshoes, then moved to the start via the ‘facilities’.

start

smile, its not *that* cold

We got going, turning easily down a gentle hill away from the start line with our group stringing out as we went. It wasn’t long before a few words between Bryan and myself resulted in us pushing forward to the lead cyclists of our group, as they appeared to be a bit more organised and taking advantage of slip-streaming. We tagged on the back as we started to climb upwards, and the first serious hill appeared ahead of us. Clunking down to the small chain and standing up, we were packed a bit too close for comfort and it was a nervous ascent. One unfortunate rider just ahead of me skidded his back wheel, hit a pothole coming to a dead stop, ending with him toppling sideways with a groan as he was unable to do anything to stay upright. A quick ‘are you ok?’ from David and myself (Bryan had avoided the melee by surging ahead) with a resigned ‘yeah’ (poor guy would have to walk it up due to the gradient preventing restarting) and we forged on. The top reached, the descent was as bad – potholes, gravel and narrow, twisting roadway to contend with saw me sitting on the brakes all the way down, though one rider (fearless or stupid?) zoomed by us, less concerned with the road condition than us.

We continued, climbing through Craigdarroch with Lynne (I think) from Ayr CC making our group into a four, swapping conversation and our places in the road as we went. The route became a long sweeping descent, I tucked in behind our Ayr buddy to follow her lines round the bends, guessing she’d know what she was at (she did), helping me to keep a solid pace down in to Glenhoul.

We were passing a few folk, rarely were we overtaken until a shout of ‘on your right’ from behind and a swarm of Johnstone Wheelers overhauled us – the cry to tag on the back went up and we dug in to maintain their pace, with a dozen or more other riders who had taken the same initiative.

train

I’m sure the train was bigger than this a minute ago

Our average began to shoot up, the train making it easy to keep the cranks turning, but forcing extra effort after any sharp bends – the slow in, fast out of the train requiring a burn each time – or on anything but a short incline to keep up with the trains momentum. I missed the ‘bump’ behind between David and another rider, so escaped any incident of note in the train, but once we turned off the A702 and hit a proper hill, the train began to out-pace my “done 88 miles yesterday” legs and I, along with many other of the ‘carried’ riders dropped off. David seemed to waver between digging in to keep up, or holding back to wait on me, in the end choosing the latter, giving me a target to work toward as he slowed and chatted to a fellow rider as the climb levelled off.  I soon caught up, and the route headed downhill, offering some respite from the recent climb. This was short lived, another hill to tackle before a longer descent and levelling off. It wasn’t long before a cake stop came into sight, and Bryan had stopped to wait on us, about 15 miles from the end. I dove in to the jam and cream scones, a few egg sandwiches and grabbed a flapjack and a banana as Bryan had spotted a group approaching to tag on to. By the time I’d got back on board, David and I were playing catch up, each time we seemed to be nearly about to make contact, a hill or junction foiled us.  A final hill (or so it seemed) with 4 miles to go and the group had out-paced us, so we settled in to the climb, over taking some tired riders as we went along. A bit of 2 man train saw us pass a few more folk, before the end was in sight – a slightly mean of them uphill section to the line, where a beaming Bryan snapped us as we crossed the line, happy with his 18mph average, and we too pleased to have completed the route without too much trouble in a solid 16.4mph average.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/175029221

And then on to cake! Well, sandwiches then cake. I stowed my bike, swapped my shoes, said “Hi” to Lynne (parked directly behind me, refilling her bottles) and wished her luck with the extra 38 miles she was off to complete, then met the others at the food tent. A variety of stuff was on offer, with a friendly ‘take as many as you want’ from the volunteers pulling out extra tubs of grub to replace any getting low. We chatted to the Wheelers and thanked them for the tow, and to a few other folk we’d met on the route. Cake was consumed (millionaire shortbread, marble cake, flapjacks, and various other goodies of unknown name), then we parted ways, 3 happy LEJOGers having completed a fine event, vowing to return next year.

sammidges

sandwich? cheese with everything

More Sammidges!

Oh, and my plan to cycle home on Sunday?  It went a bit awry – my phone was out of battery, and a solo run with no way of calling in help if anything were to happen on some of the back roads resulted in me sat on train. Not quite the memory of Largs, as this time the carriage with the bike store was full of stag party drunks, so I and a few fellow sober passengers ended up dodging their shoe slinging antics and tutting quietly to ourselves at their general misbehaviour until they had the good grace to get off the train, to the reflief of all. Made up for this non-cycle by doing a 45 miler (16.8 avg) on Monday morning, avoiding the worst of the rain to give me a nice tally of 195 miles for the long weekend.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/175847353

Majorca training day 4

Wednesday. Cloudy, but warm. We slept in. None of us were paying attention to the time, until Mark (or was it David?) realised it was 10.28, breakfast stops at 10.30, so it was a mad scramble down to the buffet breakfast hoping we could grab some calories before they put everything away. We just made it in time to grab a plate or two of grub and a few drinks of juice, rather than our more usual grazing leisurely over whatever fare grabbed our fancy.

By the time we’d got our act together, we didn’t get on the road until nearly midday. Ah well, the big 100 was probably not on, so we decided to do the Orient, a smallish climb of around 600m, about 30 miles or so south-west of us.  We headed out along the “marsh road”, so named for the long marsh grasses growing along it, to Sa Pobla, wind in our face, so turn-about in the train to share the effort. From Sa Pobla we wound our way south, hitting a main road for a few miles before turning off on to a smaller ‘bike’  road – primarily used by tourist cyclists, but with the occasional car or van passing us by. A few miles along, the sun was breaking through, so we stopped for a quick photo opportunity, then pressed on to Santa Maria del Carni, almost all the journey on the cycle road.

Mark by field

Mark by the pretty field

We stopped for a quick bite in a roadside cafe, then headed out of town towards Bunyola, and up the Orient climb itself. The three of us climbed steadily, with two other cyclists in sight ahead of us.

orient climb

going up the Orient climb

As the slope eased off, we upped our pace before a sharp left and the climb continued.  Mark started to pull ahead, soon overhauling the two riders in front, David and myself were also steadily reeling them in, and took the first then the second rider shortly after, passing a quick hello as we went by.  We hit the summit a short while later, surprised that we’d completed the climb already. A short stop for a few photos, then we were on our way downhill.

top of Orient

the top of the Orient climb

My left knee pain decided to make an unwelcome return, stiffening up on the downward section, but with 40+ miles to go, no choice but to ride on. We were soon on the flat, then hit a small climb to the actual village of Orient, then into a long descent bypassing Alaro and in to Lloseta. A minor mess up at a junction resulted in David toppling over, whacking his knee, giving us two injured riders. We forged on making good time regardless passing through Selva, Moscari and Buger, before returning to La Puebla and taking the marsh road home. This time we had the wind with us, and our train motored along at 20mph+ all the way back home.  Not quite the big 100 planned, but a solid 70 miler, averaging 15.1 mph.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/169368134

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

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

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

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

Train Training

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

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

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

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

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

Lanterne Rouge… Presque

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

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

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

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

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

getting back in the saddle… nearly

ok, I’ve not been out on the bike for weeks, so feel a slight fraud posting this in the training section, but I have done some exercise. Friday, Sunday and tonight put in a 2.5mile run, my best just over 18 minutes tonight, so reckon I’m just about back on track to join the rest of the LEJOGers on wheels soon. Friday saw my Garmin Forerunner 405 die at the end of my run, so its on its way back to Amazon for a refund, and I’m having to resort to old tech – my ageing Timex Ironman – to keep tabs on my runs (and, yes, cycles when they happen).

Previous to these last 3 outings, I’ve done nothing for weeks. Excuses? Not great ones, but did have a fine bout of (suspected) norovirus between Christmas and Hogmanay – look it up if you don’t know what it is – but enough to say I wasn’t straying far from the bathroom… This knocked me for six, managing to drop 3kg and put my training back weeks. I was managing sub 45min 10km back in late Nov/Dec and had enough stamina built up on legs to just about keep up over a 30-40mile cycle. Still, the only way is up, and there’s a pre-LEJOG planning meeting cycle planned for Saturday. Something to aim for, though its looking likely that the delightful Takmadoon will feature. I’ve only been up that nasty hill once, on my first ever outing with Gio and John back in November, my first proper cycle since I was a teenager. I managed up it that time without either falling off or having to stop, but didn’t realise this cycling malarky was so unkind to your thighs! More practice on hills seems to be the only way forward. Can’t say I’m looking forward to that, but John has promised me it will get better…