Sunday, 18 December 2016

Edinburgh to Fox Lake

Forgive me... it's been a while since my last blog post.  Starting this blog oddly coincided with the lowest cycling mileage I'd done  for a while and a slight switch of training focus from triathlon to running, to no real focus and then on to a broken collarbone.  Not that we hadn't been riding places - indeed we'd ridden up north when I fell at a hill race and had to abandon a bike with friends and get the train home.  There's nothing like a few months totally off the bike to remind you how much you love it.  It also reminded us how much fun hillwalking is, given that walking was he only exercise I was capable of for a while.  We knocked off a few Munroes and had a surprising encounter in the hills on the way north to collect my bike. 

We'd signed up to the Fox Lake 16 km trail race a while ago and written in the transport column of our race planning google sheet "bike?" and given it little more thought. When Rosemary messaged asking if she could get a lift, I just replied that we were planning to cycle.  At this point I didn't realise how horribly early the race was, and hadn't really thought about it being in mid-December. Registration closed at 9 and the race started at 9:15.  This meant we'd have to leave in the dark and couldn't very well show up in the van having refused a lift to Rosemary.

We decided that we need to leave at 7:30 and owing to Berit dealing with my excesses at my work Christmas do the week it was my turn to make breakfast ( a situation which it may take a while to reverse given the results of said excesses) I set my alarm for 6:30 and managed to get up after only one snooze period (that's nine minutes, as any iphone owner will know).  With breakfast done I was brushing my teeth when Berit announced that she was leaving and I should catch up, because she didn't want to be struggling to keep up with me.   This is Berit who has been cycling 16 miles to work most days (and sometimes the same home too) for the last few months while I have been mostly walking and have only recently got back on the bike.  Berit who beat me on the bike at St Mary' Loch Triathlon before I broke myself.  I finished my ablutions as quickly as I could, finished packing and left the flat. Then went back to get some gels that I knew I would need before setting off in pursuit through the dark (at bang on the agreed time of 7:30am).

A long wait in Tranent

I followed the familiar route to Musselburgh, using the big ring and reaching for the drops more than usual outside of a race.  Indeed I hadn't ridden this hard for a long time.  It felt good, but also didn't feel particularly sustainable.  Then I realized Berit's game.  At St. Mary's Loch she'd gotten the taste for beating me.  She'd only ever beaten me in one running race before (the Tom Scott 10 miler, when I was injured) and she obviously fancied her chances again, so thought she'd make me ruin myself chasing her down.  Well there was nothing else I could do, I'd been out-manoeuvred and had to just go hard through the Honest Toun, past the racecourse and up towards Wallyford, fiddling with the dodgy wire on the BFL(*) evertime it cut out. Ah, but what's that on the hill ahead.  Wishful thinking is what.  Another cyclist ahead, but the lights were wrong and he turned off the wrong way.  Through Tranent and I knew that if I didn't see her on the long, straight A199 my goose was cooked - I was unlikely to catch her before the end.  I didn't see here, but kept the head down and pushing on the pedals through Macmerry and Gladsmuir.  This is one of my favourite roads for riding fast on.  Wide, straight and quiet it rewards every effort and the miles just fly by.  Eventually I saw the distinctive flashing of Berit's lights  - leaving a lay-by outside Haddington.  Taking a bloody rest to save her legs for the race!

I caught her at dawn, and as we exchanged notes on the ride so far we realized we'd miscalculated the timing and need to continue a brisk pace to have hope of making registration before it closed. This we did, adopting a 2up TT formation and arrived at Fox lake just as the sun rose above the Lammermuirs
 and with minutes to spare.

Made it!

After the race we learned that Izzy had left the house at 7 - while we were still sitting in bed drinking coffee and munching toast.

Distance: 37.9 km
Riding time: 1:22:22
Strava link:
Relive the drama of the Chase:

Google reckons:

Driving: 33 minutes
Public Transport: 1:13 (to get there an hour early)

(*) - Big Fucking Light.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Edinburgh to Conundrum

Last  year we managed to cycle (or run) to every race in the excellent Borders Cross Country series. This year we'd hoped to at least run to our home race at Gala and cycle to any other five, but various logistical issues had conspired to stop us from cycling to any so far.  With those in the east being too far to drive to we missed three of the races altogether.  This left the final race at Conundrum farm as our last chance to get a good cycle in and ensure we got our series memento for completing four out of the seven races.
The problem with the front facing camera when riding into the sun.
The cold Berit was nursing on our trip to Forfar had become a full-blown proper illness with actual puss coming out of her eyes in the following week.  She'd largely recovered and been back at work, but was still a bit worried about the 50 mile ride which was once again, and rather unfairly given we were heading in the opposite direction from Forfar, into the wind.

Mud on the road
Deciding on the start time for these rides is always a bit of a numbers game. With a hard deadline of the midday race start there was some harder negotiating over our start time.  I went for the optimistic 8am, banking on a 15mph average, but Berit was keen on a more conservative 7am fearing that we would struggle to make 13mph given the headwind and her recent illness. We compromised on 7:30 and managed to actually get under way just before 7:45.
Switched the camera to back-facing.  Failed to move my hood. Nice blue sky though.
Our ride out of  Edinburgh on the familiar Musselburgh-Tranent-Gifford route to the  Redstone Rigg was blessed with bright sunshine and cursed by the forecast headwind.  The Rigg itself doesn't get any easier - you can have as low a gear as you like, but 17% with a pannier and a headwind is always going to take it out of you.  As usual I was relying on the GoPro taking photos automatically, but was tempted to stop here to make sure I got one from the top, but time was ticking so we just cracked on.  Before Gifford we had been well ahead of our required average speed, but by the time we reached the top of the Rigg we had fallen back a fair way.  Fortunately the next section was mostly downhill and we were back on schedule by Chirnside.

From here it seemed a bit of a slog and hillier than I remember to get within sight of the coast and the short up and over to Conundrum. With time running out I was reduced to calculating and recalculating the speed required to make the race.  Finally the wind seemed to turn and we got there with minutes to spare - just time for a quick change and hello to some fellow runners before it was time to to hear these three shouted consonants that greet the start of every race in the east of Scotland.
The wind taking its toll on Berit's riding style.
After the race we picked up series mementoes (buffs this year) soup and a bacon roll before riding the two miles to Berwick station for the train back to Edinburgh.  We both felt better than expected and I did give some thought to suggesting riding home, but we probably didn't have enough food with us.  Maybe next year.

Berit finds her stem fascinating

Total time: 4:04:36
Google reckons
Public Transport: 1:48:00
Driving: 1:02:00

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Forfar into the wind

I've sung the praises of the Crack'd T-Pot in Perth on here before.  It's our traditional first cake stop on the ride up to Aberdeen and we're always warmly welcomed by the owner.  We've been trying to talk her into to doing the East Fife Triathlon - just a few more years and we'll have her convinced I'm sure.  We failed to make the trip last year, but the Forfar Multi-terrain Half Marathon provided the perfect excuse to pay an early visit this year.

The weather forecasts for the past few weeks have been increasingly doom-laden with dire predictions of snowmageddon that has never materialized.  As Saturday approached it looked like the wind would be our enemy with the prevailing south-westerly being replaced by a bracing northerly.  With Berit nursing a cold and the wind set against us, it would have been easy to wimp out and head for the station - or worse, the van - but we sharpened our resolve and got going more or less on schedule at 8am.

Since we had a long way to go and it might have been icy we decided not to mess about with the bike paths had headed along the A90 for the bridge. While we were riding two men were attempting two very different world records.  In Melbournce Jack Bobridge set off about the same time as us. Steve Abraham had already been heading south (I guess he'd seen the forecast too) from Milton Keynes for two hours.  By the time we reached the bridge Bobridge had climbed off his bike having ridden 51.3km - an agonizing 500 meters short of the Hour Record.  Abraham was still riding long after we'd finished and has 11 months to go in his attempt to break the record of miles ridden in one year.  In 1939 Tommy Godwin rode  75,065 miles.  That's over 200 miles a day.  Today was a rest day for Abraham: he only rode 150 miles.

The trees are bare now
After the bridge it's through Inverkeithing and up a steady climb to Crossgates. This road always feels like the proper start of any trip north and I usually drop Berit and wait for her at the top. Today the wind kept me pegged back and she was able to tuck in and keep on me all the way up. It was the same story all the way through Fife and into Perth and Kinross. North of Milnathort I decided to drop back for a rest from pushing the wind, but it wasn't enough.  I could feel the bonk coming on. The thought of the Crack'd T-Pot sustained me and for a while I thought I could last till then but common sense prevailed and I called a halt at Glenfarg. We dug out our sandwiches and half a filled rolled was enough to perk me up again and I was soon pushing the wind again heading for our well earned panini in Perth.

We rolled into Perth bang on midday and eagerly parked outside the cafe.  Disaster.  It was closed - for ever!  The chairs were on the tables and there was a nice note in the window thanking everyone for their custom. There wasn't even a ToLet sign up yet - it seems we had only just missed it.  It wasn't quite an Old Penang moment, but it was pretty close.  The rides to Aberdeen just won't be the same.  I hope they decided to close and weren't forced out of business by lack of custom.

There was a much posher looking restaurant, Duo, across the road, so we went there instead.  It didn't look ideal, but we didn't have time to mess about looking for somewhere else.  We ordered soup, coffee and cake to all come at the same time much to the bemusement of the very French waiter. It did all come at once and was all delicious.

Posh desserts in Duo

Out of Perth and this time I did drop Berit on the climb through Scone.  I always do.  The first time we did this  I didn't notice for ages until I went to say something to her and she wasn't there.  She wasn't too happy when she eventually caught up.  Lunch always seems to speed me up and slow Berit down.  Combine that with a long steady climb and you've got a recipe for one of the few arguments we've had when riding together.  Not this time though, practically trackstanding at times I managed to keep her in my mirror until she'd digested her lunch and the road had levelled off.  From here it was a succession of straight, flat back roads all the way to Forfar.  We did the race the next day and then rode to Arbroath to get the train home on the Monday.

As close to Dundee as we want to get

Total time: 6:56 ( including ~45 minute lunch stop)
Google reckons
Public Transport: 2:57:00
Driving: 1:38:00

Friday, 9 January 2015

Zig-Zagging from Galashiels to Edinburgh.

We're having a wee post-Christmas holiday in Gala but  Berit's friend, Ish, invited us to help her celebrate becoming a British citizen on Tuesday night in Edinburgh.  We hummed and hawed but decided that Ish would only become Brit-Ish once so we would have city break from our country holiday and take the opportunity to check out some of the route we plan to run later in the year.

Mud on the road

Our route for the big run will take us between the A7 and the A68 and cross each of the connecting roads in turn.  So we planned a cycle route to criss-cross between the two main roads allowing us to check out the running path where it crosses the back roads.

The coach road.

We started north on the A7 and then zigged up and over to Lauder.  We'd already had a look at where the old path we plan to follow, the Girthgate joins this road, so there was no need to stop here. At Lauder a sharp left had us zagging back to Stow.  A couple of map-check stops later we found where the Girthgate crossed the road.  It was pretty clear and looked like the point where we will first spot the Eildons, no doubt a most welcome sight on the day (weather permitting).  From Stow it was up the familiar coach road where we missed the desired turn off and had to double back along the A7 for a bit to zig back to the A68 at Soutra.  We spotted our running route without stopping and we were soon at Soutra Aisle, where a sign for Dere Street tempted us to alter our plans to incorporate this Roman road into our route.

As we turned onto the A68, I spotted a cafe - the House of Soutra - so with Berit's brakes screeching we made an earlier stop than planned.  We didn't regret it. We both find it hard to look past a brie, bacon and cranberry panini.  We'd done enough to team it up with the leak and potato soup.  Both were top notch - the panini rivalling our favourite ever from the Dairy at Daviot near Inverness.

Is this thing working?

From Soutra we stopped our zig-zagging and headed to Humbie and the familiar road of East Lothian for our approach to the city.  Since it was getting near rush hour, we decided to take the bike path route home.

Once home we quickly changed our shoes and headed out to the royal mile to get a suitable gift for our newly British friend.  Sadly the Queen's Gallery shop was closed - so no tasteful royal themed crockery for Ish - but the tartan tat shop opposite did have a rather splendid I heart Union Jack tea towel that would do the job nicely.

The next day we got the bus to Straiton to have another look at the Loanhead to Gorebridge section of the big run.  We found some improvements and got the bus from Gorebridge to Gala in time for a late lunch of the spicy carrot and coriander soup Berit made in preparation for our return.  We now have seen enough to draft the running route from Edinburgh to Gala.

By choosing active transport we turned something that could have been a bit of chore - coming home in the middle of our holiday - into a mini adventure where we found a new route we will use between Gala and Edinburgh when time is not an issue and new coffee shop that will make the new route all the more attractive.

Draft running route:

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Active Transport: It's not all about the bike

I've been a bit quiet on here lately, not because I haven't been riding my bike, but because I've been too lazy to write about it.  I've been getting about as normal - with trips to Kilsyth and Galashiels (via parkrun) supplementing the usual getting about town.  My bike mileage has been a bit lower though, because I have been ramping up the running, in training for the Paris Marathon in the spring.

We just about managed to get going in daylight

Friday, 24 October 2014

Bennachie Hill Race

Bennachie sits on the horizon visible from Greenmoss, where Berit grew up and her parents still live. Its distinctive profile acts as a beacon telling us we're nearly there whenever we ride up there. Every October there is a hill race, so we often take the opportunity to visit Berit's parents and do the race.

This year we swithered about cycling up to Aberdeen on the Saturday - we haven't done it this year - but decided just to get the train.  Until recently you had to book your train tickets and then phone to book the bikes on - hoping that there would still be space.  Now you can book your bikes and tickets at the same time Scotrail's website.  If you can find the bike booking tick box.  It's about three pages in to the process and below two levels "more options" expanders, but it is there.

Greenmoss is between Aberdeen and Inverurie and we decided the latter would provide a nicer cycle.  On the Saturday morning the weather had been foul, but by the time we got off the train the sun was shining and it was warm.  We had a lovely ride on quiet roads.

We set off in bright sunshine...

...and arrived at Greenmoss under similar conitions

Afternoon races always present a nutrition challange, one both Berit and I totally failed to rise to on this occassion.  You don't want to eat much within two hours of running but just before that is too soon after breakfast.  Cycling there complicated things further.  We went for a late-ish big-ish breakfast and then nothing.  We should have had some gels or bars with us, but we both neglected to bring any so by the time we'd cycled 17.5 hilly miles to the race we were feeling pretty empty. 

Bennachie's distinctive profile. (It means 'hill of the breast').

The race is pretty brutal and completely exposed my lack of hill fitness and energy. By the end I was losing place after place and recorded my worst ever time.  Oh well, next year.

We hadn't been able to book our bikes from Inverurie to Aberdeen, so rather than chance it we decided to ride back to Aberdeen.  Despite two visits to the cake table I was feeling pretty empty and we set off slowly.  We'd thought we'd had plenty of time to catch the train but our pace soon had us frantically calculating our ETA and trying in vain to keep the speed up.  The headwind piled on the misery and when we both found ourselves wondering if there was anything left in a Lucozade bottle in the gutter we knew we'd have to do something.  Luckily we soon came to an open shop in Kemnay.  Berit minded the bikes while I went in and got us some jelly babies and Lucozade.  Not something I normally buy, but perhaps the sight the bottle in the gutter had trigger a craving.  It wasn't litter - it was guerilla marketing.  Anyway, it tasted  good: a sure sign that I was in trouble.
Not so bright on the way home.

We managed to pick up the pace from here and as we approached the city the standard of driving deteriorated enough to give us that extra adrenaline rush to pick it up further and we made the train with half an hour to spare. Plenty of time to get some beer and sandwiches for the journey.