Friday, 31 August 2018

Dooleys Race of Truth

I drove up early on Sunday morning for the Dooleys 10 mile time trial. The cycle event termed by some in a jingoistic stylee as ‘the race of truth’ . The event had a capacity field of 120 riders. It was over-subscribed and I had initially failed to get in, but a little cajoling of the event organiser by email coupled with a few drop-outs saw me secure number 87. I was off at 10:27am. It was a two and a half hour drive and the roads were empty. It was grey and overcast, but dry. I scanned the car radio for something other than religious programmes, all organs and reverential hushed tones. I settled for a cd by Canada's best kept secret rock band; back to the 80’s: Saga. I rocked past Ecclefechan. The range of toms, snares and cymbals the dashboard has to offer were surprisingly extensive. It began to rain. By the time I got to Bishopton, it was wet. Thankfully the wind wasn’t too bad. 

The community centre car park, race HQ, was quite busy with much to-ing and fro-ing.  There were several riders on their rollers, doing the warming up thing. I got my number and after driving the course, I still had an hour to wait. I sauntered to the coffee van and ordered an Americano.  Wandering back to the car in the cool drizzle, I realised I had entered the land of funny fashions.  Strange Gandalph-esque pointy helmets, solid disc wheels, unfeasibly narrow tyres inflated to an inch of their lives and half of them so pumped up, they should be licenced and require deflating by the bomb squad.  Let’s not mention the one piece skin-suits, so tight that the riders can’t stand up straight without breaking into a Bee Gees number.

As I supped my coffee, I noticed a new arrival. He was regaled in the livery from the Perth United Club. He walked briskly into race HQ and shortly afterwards came out with his number attached…number 86. So he was one minute in front of me. He looked the part; young, lithe, fancy matt black canyon frame, Zipp wheels and all the bells and whistles. He just looked fast. He mounted the bike and took off for his warm up. The start was 2 miles from HQ so after digging out the new time trial bike, I adjusted the saddle and fitted my rear red light (obligatory), I pedalled out to the start.

The course is a 5 mile out and back dual carriageway affair along a flattish stretch between Bishopton and Port Glasgow.  Some early competitors were already finishing. They looked tired and wet. They all looked faster than me. A few riders had punctured in the wet conditions, the rainwater washing fresh sharp gravel onto the road.

I sat behind number 85. He was counted down and set off, winding up a big gear. The starters who comprised two old crusty lads sitting below the railway bridge then turned and shouted ‘number 86’…..’number 86’…..It was a ferris bueller moment……’number 86’ ….anyone... anyone: number 86 wasn’t there. I sat on the top tube astride the bike listening to this and thinking ‘well, I know he’s here; I’ve seen him with his fast wheels and stealth frameset. But there was no sign and after 30 seconds they gave up and began the clarion call….’number 87’….’number 87’. That was me.


I was held up by the starter and readied myself. Then, at 30 seconds to go, number 86 appeared on my shoulder. A staccato conversation with the starters revealed he’d missed his slot. ‘Not my problem’ I mused as the countdown was nearing completion. I gripped the bars and turned on the Garmin with 5 to go…. ‘3,2,1,Go’ . I was off. Cutting left at the roundabout, I adopted the familiar ‘tuck’ position.

The new machine was going well. The time trial handlebars, brake levers and gear levers cost a good few quid to buy and can be fiddly to put on your road bike, so I decided to fish around for a second hand time trial bike, rather than buy the separate components. It is (so far) my only concession to joining the fashionistas in the race of truth, the race to shave seconds off your P.B.s.

My feet were wet after 2 minutes as the spray shot up from the front wheel and the rain continued to fall. I nearly lost control up a short and rough pot-holed drag at Finlaystone, but recovered and punched the pedals hard, rhythmically with little piston thighs. At 3 miles I heard the whoosh, whoosh sound of a disc wheel behind me and Lynsey Curran came past. At 6 miles just after I avoided the broken down Audi on the road, I had a bad case of déjà vu as another rider came past. He looked like number 86. He was number 86. The starters must have relented and let him take number 89’s place, presumably after number 89 failed to appear. Saps.

I buried myself to the end and my thighs were creaking down the slip road where a small gazebo and 3 other marshals sat with clipboards. ‘Not a great spectator sport’ I thought as I caught my breath around the bottom roundabout. My quads were like rock.  I made my way back to the HQ and changed before handing my number in and looking at the results board where they already had all the results up. 26m:11secs. 71st out of 83 starters. An average of 23 mph.  ‘Not too bad, considering’ I thought, but definitely some work to do to match the winning time of Adam Wild in 19:40. Ridiculously fast. 

It was scones and tea back at Glasgow Harbour where I met up with speedy Joe and boyfriend, and then it was home down the A74 in the rain. This weekend, I have a 30 miler at Stirling. I’ve made more concessions dropping in ‘on-line’ to buy some new go faster tyres and latex tubes, a smooth black stealth helmet, without the spikey bit, mind, and some velotoze, which are tight overshoes. That should buy me a few more seconds!  Likely to leave me bankrupt at this rate. Bankrupt and exhausted....!!

Monday, 20 August 2018

Brambling at Pease Bay

Friday arrived and that heralded the big ride weekend to North Berwick (and back). Its a trip of around 105 miles. Not to be sniffed at! I had been watching the forecast with more than a passing interest over the past few days. It was forecast dry and breezy on the Friday, but the Sunday was looking bleak. However, the forecast can be well off sometimes, so as we kicked off from Lidls where I shoved 6 cereal bars into my already swollen rear pockets, I focused on matters in hand. We cracked on at high speed up through Warkworth to Bamburgh. My Garmin announced each 5 mile split and it occurred to me we were motoring on. Steve, my partner in crime, had taken receipt of a new Willier road bike the previous week. His sorry back catalogue of broken bikes and crippled components was, hopefully, a thing of the past. On the way up we took a couple of wrong turns, one of which threw us back onto the A1. We spent 3 miles at 22 mph riding hard up the hard shoulder being kissed by Coaches and goosed by HGV's before the side road at Scremerston beckoned. That marked the 50 mile mark and we stopped for soup and cake.
The café is next to the Go Outdoors place and is warm, reasonably priced and the waiting staff worked attentively. We cracked on after the half hour stop and passed through Ayton. A small dear ran across the road in front of us, chased out of the nearby field by a combine.  Hitting it at speed on a downhill could have been nasty. After Coldingham we started the long climb to the wind farm. It began to feel like a cross-headwind and progress definitely waned.  The chat became sporadic. Pease Bay came and on the short climb out from the caravan park, I found myself unable to resist the plump brambles at the side of the road. After a veritable fruitfest, I wiped the purple slaver off my chops and we cracked on, stopping again at Dunbar for a juice stop and it was a touch over 6 hours for the 105 miles into North Berwick.
On Saturday, we elected to ride into Edinburgh along the coastal route rather than watch the footie with the other 2 lads who had driven up.  Steve was feeling the previous nights beer and we toiled into a stiff headwind all the way to Portie, where we stopped outside two cafes that were heaving. We sat outside beside the sand. A dog walkers paradise. It was soup and tea again before the speedy wind assisted ride back and another 40 miles in the bag.
We took in the Chinese restaurant in on the 2nd night out in the town.  I slept soundly until I was woken in the early morning by the rain and wind. The wind had turned to a north easterly and it was with a little reluctance that we donned our gear and hit the road at 9ish.  I was saturated after 10 minutes. The clag was down and the snails out on the road en-masse. It must be grim at times being a professional road racer in stage races having to wake up to weather like that and knowing you have 150 kilometres in front of you. The rain never really let up down the road, with us being kept moist in a persistent drizzle and grey sea haar until Seahouses. The handlebar tape gets wet and never dries off and climbing is a little more tricky with the hoods of the brake levers slippy. You never really dry out. By Lesbury there was some unpleasant chaffing to report, so we stopped at the co-op where I invested in some aloe vera lip balm and applied a good dollop to the affected parts. Steve dragged me back the last 10 miles after I lost the will to pedal around Felton. But all in all, a big weeks total for the bike.
Regrettably I picked up my emails on my return and have found out that I didn't manage to get into next Sundays time trial at Erskine, so I'll consider what else is on and see how it shapes up next weekend.   

Monday, 13 August 2018


I'm just back from an early morning 20 miler. Having done me amdramstring in a fortnight ago on the track, I have been back on two wheels and knocked up a couple of 120 mile-weeks. Sweet. But the weather has taken a turn for the worse since I dug out my trusty steeds after cutting my way through the garage. I was nicely sautéed (in wet and warm conditions) after yesterdays solo 40 miler during which I witnessed the pinging and ejection of one of my flat spokes. Sheer speed or simply metal fatigue? More like rider fatigue. I wondered why the wheel had begun to lose it shape. The replacement spokes seem a tad expensive.

When you're a bikie (and you can be a bikie and a runner), there are several 'do's and don'ts' which should be followed; An extensive list of these cycling commandments has apparently been drawn up by the wise lycra clad elders. My attention was drawn to said list by a mate on strava after I loaded up my latest ride.  The link appears to be all good humoured stuff - it can be found here  Apparently going out in the rain when most other sun loving types are huddled away inside their dry warrens stroking their whiskers is Rule 9 and makes me a 'baddass'.  I stopped for a coffee after 20 miles (mind, no cake - note Rule 91. Actually I would have welcomed some fruit cake but I only went out with £2) -  I was also dangerously close to breaking Rule 56 - thankfully the village hall café at Capheaton on a wet Sunday morning were not offering lattes or soya milk refreshments!

I have been trying to introduce a little speed training into the routine. With this in mind, I rode out to Cramlington last Wednesday (late afternoon) and attempted the 10 mile time trial course to see what shape I'm in. The course is a 2 lap affair with a fast start and all on dual carriageway; not much scenery here, but then time triallists spend 90% of their time looking down at the tarmac and trying to keep their upper body rigid. My opinion of the black stuff on this course is that it could be smoother and the manhole covers leave something to be desired. There's always the token numpty some way along the route trying to get his vehicle as close to you as possible. With a perky westerly, I completed the slog in 26:42 which was not too bad, considering. However, my enthusiasm waned late in the day.  I had clearly over done it. I felt over-tired at dinner, had no time for port or cheese and took myself to bed at 9pm collapsing on top of the bed and coming to at 2am. 

In order to give my training some purpose, I have entered a couple of time trials. My season opener at Erskine in a fortnight will need to be in the 25' minute bracket if I am to come away with any dignity. Finding a minute is a tall order though. Aunt Aggie simply grunted when she heard this. Spread-eagled over her Meccano set in the lounge, she said I can draft behind her mobility scooter if needs be.  Its one of the last 10 mile time trials of the season, but I'm a late starter. For good measure I have shoe horned in a 30 miler early in September on a 'rolling' course between Stirling and somewhere ending in -uchty.  I stand a good chance of being last unless I can devise a method of getting some discreet battery power into my down tubes (not a euphemism) and/or getting my hands on half a pound of horse steroids.  Aunt Aggie says she 'knows someone', but I suspect that means she'll come back from the church coffee morning with a handful of peppermints in a brown paper bag. She's already offered me a cocktail of whatever she's taking. I declined the offer. Her 'special mix' might not increase my speed, but I would be guaranteed of having no recollection whatsoever of what I did over the weekend.  

I should easily deliver 200 miles this week as its the annual pilgrimage to North Berwick (round trip on the bikes is 160 miles). I will need to dig out the winter gear (Rule 21) as the evenings are getting cooler and the rain keeps coming.  I'd like to have another crack at the Tour de Trossachs in October, but one thing at a time. 

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Grin and Bare it

Back of the field & Pistol Pete in the rain (thanks Pam)
I missed the track meet on the 16th, but I made the following one on the 30th. The organisers vary the events and the nearest event I could find to fit my new self stylee profile of a middle distance bald Alan Wells was the 800mm. How hard can 2 laps of the track be? I'm not a complete novice in this event. Having ran it three times previously over the last 13 years, I have faithfully delivered a 2:20 every time. Would it be too much to ask to manage another 2:20 well into my 50's? Well, I'll not keep you hanging on (in the words of Kim Wilde): I was well off the pace.
It was breezy with heavy showers. There was a large field of runners. There were 8 heats. I was in heat seven which meant there were some fast guys and gals there. I found myself drawn in lane 5 next to Hughes of NS poly. As I haven't been doing any track training with my spikes, I elected to go with my new Saucony Jazz's. I took my place in the lane and cast my eyes across the wet track, the surface half submerged in puddles of rippling water. I wondered to myself if I could skid off the track. Not likely. The gun went and off we went. I fund myself near the back and stayed there until the beginning of the second lap when I passed Mcluskey and then at 600m, I took the long way round Hughes. I could feel my face gurn badly as I hit the final straight. The rain was heavy again, but I worked on my facial expressions and leg extension and fended off a fast finishing mcluskey with an admirable turn of speed. It was a 2:33, but what could I reasonably expect without any speedwork this summer?  It was too wet for a warm down and frankly I didn't feel that I had expended any excessive energy.
However, my hamstring is sore tonight after 6 steady miles through the woods which have become the recent refuge of the little burgers they call horse flies. 'That's why I don't do the track', I reminded myself as I walked the last kilometre home.  Looks like I'm back on the bike for a few weeks. That's timely, in a way as I have been looking at doing a few time trials and Hill Climbs early Autumn.