I was ready for the ride. I’d trained (not excessively, but enough), the bike was good, the clothing was ready, the weather had been prepared for. What I wasn’t ready for was the early start.
The 110 mile ride had to start before the main 47 mile route, and there had to be some time to alter the road closures, the Sportive riders had set off at 6:45 from Glasgow Green. Not too bad, but once you realise you want to be there 10-15 minutes before that, then you have to build in time to get there and somehow I found myself getting up at 5am and walking down to my friend’s house in the dark, still eating the large bowl of porridge I’d made myself. The bikes had been loaded up the night before and there was a scary moment when the back of the van wouldn’t open and let us get the bikes to actually ride it. We were aided by Scott’s excellent wife, Rose who provided additional transport, and also team car duties on the route round.
By the time we were on the start line, it was daylight, not quite as cold as I thought it would be but most importantly not raining. Our “team” of six, essentially the group of people from the shop; there was no chance that I would be able to stick with them, set off up and out of Glasgow in a large bunch of other cyclists. Through the urban areas we were mostly surrounded by other cyclists. Whilst the others in the “team” gradually drew ahead I kept pace with Scott. However, shortly after we left the city we passed Alan who’d had a puncture. We checked he was okay and pressed on (turned out he wasn’t as he shortly discovered that his pump was broken and had to flag down another rider to help). A bit further on we passed the other three dealing with another puncture. Technically, we were in the lead at this point. I know saying things like that are a bit silly, but it’s what keeps me going, distracting me from the distance remaining.
Around this point we also passed a father and son team. The boy looked very young and we later found out he was 10 and he did complete the ride. Chapeau!
Into the Country
We went straight through the first feed station as it was only 40km into the ride and just before the first big hill. Transmitter Hill was perhaps the longest climb, if not the toughest and Scott and I were caught by the others. I was then dropped, not willing to use up all the energy in my legs on the first climb. Once over the top, there was one of the funnest descents I’d done. I must have passed about 20 other riders on the way down, and on the flat main road afterwards I caught Scott who dropped back to try and help me onto the group. Unfortunately, there was then a long drag into the wind and I simply couldn’t get back on.
I couldn’t keep up with Scott either and there followed the toughest section of the route for me; a solo ride into a headwind on the remotest, bleakest area. I was saved by a group of guys that as they passed shouted “hook on” and I gratefully wheel sucked for quite some time and thanked them profusely. Eventually, I felt much better and even took a turn on the front as the group grew quite large as we neared civilisation. The group was shattered by the next big hill at Glentaggart. The silence of many cyclists stoically pushing up the climb is quite incredible to hear, the only sound is from the bikes.
Shortly after the hill was the second feed station at Crawford St. John where I gratefully rolled to a halt. Scott was still at the stop, but I had missed the others who I didn’t see for the rest of the day. My parents and kids were waiting at the stop which gave me a big boost. I got some grub and refilled the water. I didn’t stop for too long and was able to set off with Scott for the next leg.
It wasn’t long before I was off the pace again. Now it wasn’t a determined effort to pace myself, I was really struggling with the pace up the hills and coming up was the steepest hill of the lot, Carmichael Hill. This one just rears up ahead of you. As I approached there were a couple of guys at the bottom having a rest before giving it a go. Good idea, but one I didn’t follow. Slow and steady up and I made it in one go – unlike one person I past who stopped and then fell off. I was going slow enough to make sure he got up and was okay (just embarrassed). At the top, the directions were not very clear at all ! and I had to stop and double check where to go for quite a few minutes (okay, I was knackered and needed a rest).
I didn’t stop long enough as on the straight after coming off the hill, I got severe cramp. From then to the next feed station I was in pain all the way. Luckily it wasn’t too far away and once I’d made it, had a rest and a banana, the cramp went. Whilst it still aching for the rest of the ride, it wasn’t a major issue after that point.
After the Carnwath stop, it was just the Lang Whang and then the descent into Edinburgh. Or not. The Lang Whang was bearable, although Scott got away from me again because I knew what was coming, a drag, but whilst the general direction after that was downhill, there were far too many little ascents on the way into Edinburgh, each one feeling like a Cat 4 climb by this stage. However, reaching 100 miles on this stretch was a real boost.
Finally, I got to the timing mat (quite oddly placed in a driveway which you had to turn back into; I was lucky to see a number of cyclists already waiting there and spotted it; others missed it and had to ride back to it) – just the 9 miles into Edinburgh to go.
We rounded the corner to approach Murrayfield and merged with the Challenge riders, what seemed like hundreds of them compared to our little bunch of weary 110 milers. Riding through the stadium itself was quite surreal. Then we emerged through to the finish line, collected our bags and medal. Done. A very strange feeling to have finished the goal of my entire year. I wasn’t too exhausted, just tired and happy.
Thanks to Nick, Alan, John, Barry and Scott who were my main riding buddies through the year, Scott in particular for waiting for me probably longer than necessary. Thanks to Scott’s wife for giving me a lift there in the morning, and thanks to my parents for coming out with the kids to meet me at the feed stations and collecting me at the end. Finally, thanks to my wife for putting up with all these hours cycling when I could be at home making her cups of tea.
The stats :-
Max Speed 62.3km/h
Avg Speed 24.3km/h