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.

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Rousay Lap

Rousay, in the Orkney Islands, has a road that happens to be pretty much bang on 13.1 miles round.  Each year the local development trust hosts "The Rousay Lap" and invites you to walk, run or cycle round the island.  In truth they're not terribly fussy how you get around the island: I've heard tell of a unicyclist and seen a skateboarder or two over the years.  Berit's father is from the island so the lap provided the perfect excuse for the whole Inkster clan (and me) to head north and join in.  One of Berit's university chums has also settled on the Orkney mainland, so this gave us the perfect chance to pay her a flying visit too.
Runners, cyclists and walkers gather for the start of the Lap

Berit and I would, of course, like to cycle the whole way there (except for the over the water bits) but we just didn't have enough annual leave this year.  We tried to book trains but there were no spaces for our bikes on all the required journeys so we  were left with driving most of the way.  So we drove up in the van, parked at the ferry terminal in Gill's bay, unpacked the tandem and pushed it onto the ferry for the short sea crossing to St Margaret's Hope. The ferry route and our ride is made possible by the Churchill Barrier - a series of causeways linking some of the islands built during the Second World War to keep German U-boats out.  Italian prisoners of war were heavily involved in their construction and built the famous Italian Chapel - I'd heard of it before my first visit to the islands.  It's only just off our route, but we've still never stopped to take a look.  Maybe next time.

There are two ferries to Orkney.  We've always opted for Pentland Ferries with its short crossing rather than the more expensive and longer P&O offering.  The story is that the P&O ferry is hugely subsidized and the Pentland has been started by a local farmer who saw an opportunity.  It's cheaper, quicker and by all accounts more reliable. He reckons if he got the subsidy the other ferry got he could run it free for islanders. He also does a pretty decent bacon roll onboard.

Heading away from the ferry.
There's not an awful lot to be said about the ride itself - mostly because I've been too slack in writing this and it was a while ago.  On the Friday we rode from the Ferry to visit Berit's friend Fiona and her husband and dog. We stayed the night with them and then rode to get the ferry to Rousay on Saturday morning. I didn't win the lap this year, but I did get a PB.  Berit was pretty happy with her time - and she was first wife, as the say round these parts.  The next day we rode round the island to watch Berit's brother surf, visit Berit's cousin and get our lunch in the restaurant.

I pointed the camera backwards for one leg of the journey and its mostly these photos I've included here.  It was set to take a photo every 30 seconds.  Berit wasn't aware when it would take a shot - she was just grinning like that all the time.

Head down, working hard for a change.

What's going on?

Nope still can't see.

I'll just hide here and grin

Indicating - a key job of the stoker.

It's like everyone on Orkney has been replaced by aliens who are trying to blend in and think that people actually follow the highway code. 

The dunes on the left have built up since the barrier was built during the second world war.

You can just see some of the rusting wrecks of sunken German ships.

Still grinning
Taking a break from the grinning to get us up a hill

Snot rocket

Indicating arm getting some more use

Quick direction check

Gunner always
goes mental when he sees us on bikes, or a bike in this case.

I rode the tandem solo the last section while Berit walked with Fiona and Gunner
We overhauled a couple of roadies on the way to Tingwall

They sat in our draft and then attacked on the last corner.

Waiting for the Rousay ferry

Rolling on

St Margaret's Hope to Fiona and Andy's
Fiona and Andy's to Tingwall
Banks to St Margaret's hope