Hebridean Adventure: Day One

The Prologue
I have done several cycle tours over the past four years, most notably to Amsterdam and back where I made several friends with whom I have kept up thanks to that modern-day pen-pal system – Facebook.  When my Walkers club-mate Laura suggested a tour riding the length of the Outer Hebrides I was instantly interested – not just because I had been watching a documentary about them but also because I thought “200 miles?  Pfffft. Piece of cake after Amsterdam.”   I will admit to being a little daunted by the fact that my travel companion to be was half my age (literally), twice as fit (literally) and half my body weight (don’t go there).   However, with that customary difficulty I find myself having regularly, the word “No” somehow became Yes” by the time the air had travelled from lung to vocal chords and there I was committed. Or I should have been.  One set of borrowed panniers plus rack and a lot of trying to stuff in clothes and other necessities later, I was ready to go.  Now it was up to my legs to do the rest.

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Shooting the Crow

The Crow Road is one of the legendary cycling climbs in this part of the world. It is not the steepest of hills  – there’s a section of 12% at the bottom which lasts for about a quarter of a mile but after that it is just a long drag of a constant climb of between 5% and 9% that goes on for about three miles, going in that distance from 280feet to 1380. What makes it ouchworthy is that you get to what you think is the top only to turn a corner and be confronted with another half mile of up.

My first encounter with this entity was last year during the Trossachs Ton event and it was yet another of my classic comedy cycling moments. Just as I was priding myself on not having stopped, I noticed that the sheep in the field beside the road were actually overtaking me. And the wee buggers weren’t even running!  I do have to confess that my “not having stopped” came to an end fairly soon after that as I ran out of steam and had to put the foot on the ground for a breather before resuming.

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N+ how many?

Well I’ve done it. Bought another bike.

The Dolan has served me well for a first road bike, especially since it had never been my intention to get a carbon framed one that early in my cycling life.

But things move on and I had been very impressed with the Specialized Ruby that I hired in Texas.  It had come down to a choice between that and the Giant Avail Advanced, but with the latter being now unavailable until 2014, I went with the Ruby.

Good choice.


Bike 3

Parliamentary Pedalling

Seems like I’ve fallen into my old ways of “forgetting” to post again, so it’s time to redress that.   Since returning from Texas my cycling has been a bit fits and starts – partly because of the weather, and partly because at this time of year work is a tad hectic because we are winding up classes for the academic year.  This is always accompanied by students you have seldom seen suddenly materialising and expecting to be able to do twelve weeks’ work in a day and then getting huffy when you suggest they can’t just copy what their pal has written.  But that is another story, and no doubt one that is universal.

Cycling events in May were mostly local, but involved my first century ride of the year. (It was actually only about 97 miles but that’s near enough and I am claiming it on the basis of not having switched the Garmin on while I searched the length and breadth of the Royal Mile looking for a toilet.)

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Rain? In Scotland? Well I never.

Now many people are put off doing outdoor activities by a little rain. Even cyclists in fact.   And most people would be put off doing outdoor activities by a lot of rain. Even cyclists.  So when I woke up on Saturday May 11th to an absolute deluge going on outside my window, why on earth did I then yawn, stretch and think “Time to get ready to go and cycle round Arran”

Now if you have been paying any sort of attention on here, you’ll have noticed that I had a less than successful trip round Arran not but a few weeks ago, where I used the excuse of “tired after my Texas trip” to justify cycling like a five year old girl.  So what possessed me to think that I could do any better in torrential rain?  Well actually it was probably the thought that I couldn’t do any worse that made me head off on the 8.43am train.  That and the knowledge that the company would be good.

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…and again

One of the biggest benefits of the Scott Contessa school is that it has given me  new circle of cycling friends to go out with, most of whom are of my own ability level or slightly better.  I have managed to go out on several occasions now with all or some of them at a time and I honestly believe tha my own ability has increased because of it.  This includes the marvellous occasion a few weeks back when we set off from East Kilbride in glorious sunshine only to pass across a definite snow line an hour later. Quarter of an hour after than I realised that I could not get my left cleat to engage. A closer inspection reveal a hard-packed lump of ice which just would not come out.  An early coffee stop allowed me to remove the shoe and heat it up over the cafe heater long enough to then prise out the ice block with the end of my coffee spoon – none of which was at all hygienic.

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Climb every mountain …

Well after the buzz and great cycling of Texas, I came down to earth with somewhat of a bang on Saturday. Our club had arranged a trip over to Arran – 56 miles round and a fair bit of climbing – and I had suggested that I led a slower group round. So far so good. What I hadn’t anticipated was having probably the worst ride of my cycling life so far, an event which culminated in my “leading£ the slower group from the back.  It may have been the journey and the lack of sleep catching up with me, but I struggled up even small hills and often had to pause to gather strength or, as happened on too many occasions to mention, just get off and push.  I managed to get sufficient second wind after the lunch stop at Blackwaterfoot to make a decent fist of the second section of the ride, including the hoick up over the Boguile hill.  I even managed a decent 20mph sprint at the end into Brodick, but I rather suspect the sight of the cars piling on to the ferry in the distance provided the real spur for that.

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Deep in the heart… Day Two

Another ridiculously early start loomed, just, of course, as I’d stopped shivering in the tent and had actually dropped off to sleep.  It was actually warmer outside it than inside so getting up wasn’t a hardship at all.  After a light breakfast we all lined up ready for the off at 7am.  At 8am we eventually got out of the site – a long wait but passed in relative warmth and a bit of fun as a beach ball appeared from nowhere and was passed about the long queue of waiting cyclists.  I had opted for the easier route as the sciatica attack I’d suffered during the previous week had started to niggle a bit.  The challenge route included the only major hills in the event, getting up to a 9% at times. Both routes came together again at the lunchtime stop at Bastrop.

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Deep in the heart of Texas – Day One

Well, what a week that was.  Having packed the case well in time then unpacked it eight times to check I’d had packed it right,  I set off for Glasgow Airport at ridiculous o’clock on the morning and arrived – because such is the small size of Scotland and such is the lack of traffic at that time – at ridiculous o’clock plus ten minutes.  With no delays at all we left wet and windy Glasgow headed for Amsterdam where I met up with Harriet.  We soon embarked on to a monster of a plane in which we we to be the guests of KLM for the next ten hour, and after s long, boring haul later and we touched down in Houston.   And saw it was wet and windy.  Oh the irony.

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