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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

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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.

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?

Train Training

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

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

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

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

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

Team Training 4 – A Game of Two Halves

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

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

A ticket to (not) ride

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

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

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

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

Team Training 3 – Where are You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team Training 2 – Ian’s Lament

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who’s up for next time?   Ian?

Lanterne Rouge… Presque

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

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

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

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

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

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…