It takes a lot of bottle

Now I’m not one to shirk away from a challenge. Indeed, those of you who know me will recognise that I actively seek out such animals, and by and large the more insane they are, the better.

So, my cycling challenges are (in no particular order except the first one which did seem somehwat of a pre-requisite for the others) 1. be able to go the damn thing without falling off too frequently, 2. master the use of clipless pedals (same goal qualifier as no. 1), 3. cycle 5000 miles in 2010, 4. conquer at least one endurance cycling event (min 200 miles), and finally 5. cycle a century ride (metric and imperial). It seems to be the case that no 1 had been achieved give or take the odd accidental visit to the ground already documented in the blog. And, as per my previous post, no 3 has been achieved. It became apparent that it was time to start tackling the tons, and where better to start that on my beloved island of Islay.

Enter the Ardbeg Committee 10-year anniversary Gourmet Ride. No prizes which part of that title was the unique selling point! Over we went on the stupid o’clock ferry, having had no sleep the night before on account of remembering, just as we were nodding off to sleep, that the road was shut overnight and a two-hour detour in place. Ah well. For future reference, should you find youselves in teh situation, dear reader, there is next to bugger all on the road from Lochgilphead to Oban at 4am on a June morning. Not even a polecat.

The ride was a marvellous affair. Featuring guest of honour Graeme Obree, it was most certainly not the “leisure ride” I had expected. It became apparent from the outset that it was for serious cyclists and that I would have to pull something special out of the bag to get round. Weather-wise, it was at the same time screaming hot sunshine and a howling wind. Combine this with hills (not little teeny mounds or gently undulating slopes but feckin great big ones) and you have a flavour of the event.

BUT! Never let it be said that I don’t rise to a challenge. Over 64 gruelling miles later I arrived back at Ardbeg distillery, knackered but havng successfully undertaken the ride. And I didn’t get off and push once. Think I’ll have to do a bit more training before the 100miles becomes likely. I’ll get there.

Now you see what I mean by it taking a lot of bottle!

Graeme Obree and Brian Palmer realx at lunch after a VERY long hill

Afternoon tea at Debbie's Cafe. A pattern that is not cycling emerging do you think?

A former champion being very silly on a a tandem

Martin from Johnstone Wheelers enjoys a lemonade after the ride

What makes a Gourmet Ride a gourmet ride? Probabaly this.

There ain’t nothing like a dame!

I have, as you may have guessed, been well and truly bitten by the biking bug, so it may not surprise you that I have been looking for bigger and better cycling challenges to test my skills and stretch my experience. Or if you you must put it that way, I’ve been looking for mad things to do on two wheels. My recent exploit was a 250 mile charity cycle from York to Amsterdam (and back – very vital piece of the picture that). Held over five days, the event was to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care, and involved a party of some 56 women plus 6 Ride Leaders from Charity Adventure – the organising group. So there I was, the lone Scot among a crowd of women with strange accents all standing at the Failford Designer Outlet at stupid o’clock in the morning of Friday June 11th awaiting our departure orders. I was in Team 3 which included a very loud Scouser called Nikki and an interesting assortment of people of all shapes, sizes and ages. Another niggle abated as I realised I was neither the oldest nor the fattest. Now I don’t intend to give you a mile by mile account of the trip. Instead I shall give you a photo montage with suitable captions, and a brief bit here.

What did the trip mean to me? Cycling wise – the challenge of a long distance over a short(ish) time. While not in the Tour de France league of daily distance, it was certainly my first attempt at 50+ miles a day over 4 days (yes, I know I said 5 earlier. the middle one was a rest day). Nor was it challenging terrain, as we were below sea level for most of the trip through Holland. indeed we only went above sea level once – and it was the grand amount of 12 feet and for a mere 45 seconds. The only real hills were between Hull and York including the “challenge” hill that only the confident, the proficient and the downright lunatic attempted. Yes, I did, and it’s up to you which of those brackets you want to put me in. Fund raising wise – I made about £700 which I am pleased about. Otherwise? I made a lot of great friends some of whom I have kept up with and will make an effort to visit, ride with and hopefully team up with again at next year’s event. I am immensely glad I did this challenge and look forward to the next one mid-July.

Ready to leave. Please note I am wearing three layers of clothing in this picture. It is NOT bulgy bits!

My Roomies for the weekend - Lesley, Diane, Kath, Jean, Jane with other friends Pat and Madi in the background

The Roomies under the Humber Bridge. Lots of blue sky and the weather was that good all 5 days

The Black Dog Babe awaits the off in Rotterdam

Pat and Madi

Helen in white and in black, Nikki, the mad Scouser. Heart of gold but it was like having Lily Savage with you at times.

Pat's piles?

the only bit in Holland where we were above sea level. 12 feet to be exact and only for about 45 seconds.

In Amsterdam there is a cooncil section dedicated to removing bikes from canals in case they clog them up

Our glorious ride leader, Mark

The positively gorgeous Team 3

The Roomies made it