William who?

Ah yes William Wallace. No, not my brother-in-law in Australia; the other one. He who has become one of Scotland’s best-kent heroes despite most people in Scotland knowing next to nothing about him other than what Hollywood told them in that load of of crap, the movie Braveheart. However, the Braveheart I was interested in today was a 44-mile bicycle ride in aid of the Braveheart fund – a charity which funds training for up and coming young Scottish cyclists. I entered this event last year as a very novicey novice cyclist and only did the 20-mile route. This year was of course to be a bigger challenge – even if this involved the Eaglesham Moor and several other quite lumpy bits of countryside. If you trawl back to last year’s entry, you will find that the event took place is brilliant autumn sunshine. And of course, as it was also my birthday, it was odds on that this year’s would follow suit

Not.

It was a dreich October morning when I set off at 9.15am and it was a dreich and windy morning when I arrived at the start line in Kilmarnock. My ride buddies for the event were Ian and Angela from Walkers. Ian and I have ridden before and I know he is of a similar standard to me – i.e. pish on hills! Off we set, for some reason tacked on to the end of the people who would be averaging 18mph. Hah! Only if it was all downhill methinks! It did, however, become apparent that we were not going to be the slowest on parade and I was delighted to actually be overtaking people. It was all going swimmingly (almost ltierally at one point when a large puddle loomed up out of nowhere). There was however the small matter of me not seeming to have any leg muscles with me. I don’t know if my efforts of the previous weekend were only just beginning to bite, but I was knackered. Gubbed. Whacked, Deid, and all that sort of thing. But as it was simpler to carry on that return, on I kept with Ian in sight ahead of me at all times. Angela had decided it was way too cold to be hanging around with the oldies and had shot off. The challenge of Eaglesham Moor went better than anticipated and the only real problem was that my feet were getting very cold as I had forgotten my overshoes. Well to be more truthful, in a senior moment I had packed a pair of arm warmers instead. However, on I plodded (I think – couldn’t really feel my feet at one point) and eventually we turned a corner which mercifully took us out of the wind for a few miles. Anyway, rather than recount the entire 44 miles, I shall mention only the highlights: first the classic comedy moment of when I caught up with Ian and Emma at a turning point whose angle was being blocked by one of the SAG wagons. My brain was screaming at my foot to unclip, but it just wasn’t listening. I have no idea how but I managed to get a foot down just as I was passing the point of no return in that classic sideways slow-motion fall with a rictus grin on my face. Crisis (and colossal embarrassment) averted. Other highlights of course included the wonderful downhill stretch to the finish line.

My time for the event was pants (3hrs 28mins) but I hadn’t relised the headwind was quite as strong until I heard the real cyclists tallking about it. That of course made up considerably for what I had thought was just lack of trying on my part.

So have I improved in a year? I reckon so. Average speed has increased and hill ability has certainly come on. But the event did serve to show me that I am still only at best an average cyclist. I have a fair bit of work to do before I will consider myself a good one. Next year’s event will be the real test, not just in measuring like with like distance-wise but also in reassuring myself that another year added to the grand tally of middle age is not going to be a disadvantage. And anyway, Ian is still going to be older than me!

And lastly, this sort of challenge for next year clearly justifies the third bike I bought for my birthday.

Happy birthday to me.

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