Monday, 5 May 2014

Gran Fondo in the bag!

Well it's a Bank Holiday today and I've been taking a rest from the exercise after a busy week's training. I managed to squeeze in 17 hours 22 mins last week so certainly needed my rest day today.

I completed another 4km swim on Friday in surprise, surprise, another 1 hour 20 minutes. It seems I have found my 'steady' pace. This is a little faster than I was last year and I know that I can swim a bit faster in a wetsuit so I'm happy with results to date. The biggest thing is racking up yet another IM distance swim, psychologically it is great to look back and see that I've completed the distance a number of times and I know that I'll rely on that when the gun goes off for The Outlaw.

On Saturday a number of Team ATHelite headed down to Drumlanrig Castle for a well organised sportive.

Tony leading the way, followed by Calum, Graeme, Alan, Johnny, Stuart, me and guest star Stevie Kattenhorn from East Kilbride Road Club.

All smiles now... little did I know what was yet to come!

Stevie and Johnny set the initial pace and we were quickly zipping along the quiet back roads of Dumfriesshire picking off a number of other groups as we rolled through some gorgeous countryside. Then BANG! I'd punctured my front wheel going over a sharp stone and pulled over to the side of the road as quickly as I could. I managed to whip the wheel and tyre off quickly enough but Stevie's pump didn't seem to want to put any air into the new inner-tube. I gambled on using a compressed CO2 cartridge for the first time and it managed to work - getting the tyre inflated just in time for us to join the back of a large chain-gang. 

After about 5 minutes keeping up a strong pace I heard something clatter on the road and a number of cyclists close to me let me know I'd dropped my glasses - doh! In my haste to get back on the bike I'd forgotten to stick them on and had left them hanging onto my top - a schoolboy error. I stopped and rode back about 300 or 400m picked them up and put them back together.

Once I'd put my glasses back together and then on properly, the race was well and truly on to try and catch up with the rest of the guys. I embarked on a solo time-trial effort and after about 48 mins where my heart rate bounced between 160-180 rpm I eventually caught them up. There is a lot to be said for riding in a group!!!

I was pleased to see a few of the guys waiting at the bottom of a hill, although they were mercilessly ripping the mick out of Graeme as he changed a puncture on his back wheel. Didn't help the fact that his pump was as good as the Katt's... I think we're all converts to gas cartridges now  ;-)

We rode on, stopping after about 3 and a half hours at one of the cake stops en route - refuelling by firing as much sugary goodness into the systems we could muster. Luckily we were one of the latter groups, otherwise Papa G would have gone down in the bad books for consuming most of the tablet ;-)

After a few more lumps in the road we finished the first loop (62 miles) of the Drumlanrig sportive and then set about the food once more... I can safely say that was the best corned beef and tomato sandwich I've had in a very long time!

Johnny waiting patiently for me to return... I should really have given him the car keys.

By the time we'd finished lunch, Johnny and Stevie had already left for the shorter, but much hillier, second loop of 38 miles.

Stuart and I decided we were up for the second loop, although the prospect of snoozing in the car and waiting for Johnny to get back did appeal. I know that I need to get a few century rides under my belt before the Outlaw and had signed up for the 'Gran Fondo' challenge on Strava where you need to complete one ride of 130km or more... Drumlanrig ticked that box.

We took a couple of wrong turns immediately leaving the Castle, uphill of course, and needed to retrace our steps up more hills. As we were whizzing along one of the (few!) downhill sections near the river I was chatting about how this was more my style (i.e. going downhill aided by gravity!) when a bumble bee pinged right off my nose - with sufficient force to turn my head sideways! I reckon the bee came off worse but given the fact I was talking and the size of my mouth, we were both lucky I didn't swallow it!

Then the road turned upwards, through the Mennock pass. This is where my mass is most certainly a disadvantage and I waved goodbye to Stuart as he danced on the pedals skywards. I put the bike into the granny gear and kept on spinning, watching all the skinny racing snakes ease past me. The training in Lanzarote helped here but I reckon more work is to be done to help me attack the hills in the future. The road climbed up to about 468m above sea level to Wanlockhead, Scotland's highest village and then turned across Leadhills for a more gentle climb and a rip-roaring descent, hitting speeds of around 67 km/hr which was a total blast :-)

One quick stop to chat to yet another lovely Marshal, fill the water bottles and scoff a banana and it was on to the home straight. Unfortunately, nobody had informed the weather forecasters that we were out and we battled through the headwind from hell for 45 minutes across bleak moorlands until suddenly the road dropped back into Dumfriesshire and again, gravity became my friend!

I led a couple of strangers for about 10 miles as they sheltered behind me (I form quite a big wind-break!) despite me looking over my shoulder and allowing them to pass to take their turn at the front. They nipped past me on the last turn as we climbed towards the Castle for the final time but I'd decided they weren't going to finish in front of me so I dredged up some more energy and out sprinted them down the finishing straight. Boom!

So 166.5km and 6 hours and 30 minutes later I was finished. Never have I been so pleased to put on a dry t-shirt, top and socks, get into the car and stick on the heated seats!!!  We'd been lucky with the weather, it had stayed dry, but 7 degrees C is a bit chilly for me these days - I'm born for sunnier climates ;-)

Johnny and I loaded the car and the sat-nav led us home via the Mennock pass. I did think of turning on the Garmin and driving at an average speed of 22mph to claim the king of the mountain for a laugh, but some poor soul has won that fair and square... I'll need more training (or actually another set of legs) to challenge that in the future!

Once home, it was onto the treadmill for 30 minutes and then followed by my knee exercises and stretches and the fun of analysing all the data from my watch! My Garmin told me I'd burned 5,314 kCalories on the ride alone, so I stuffed my face with curry, cake and beer and fell asleep on the sofa - it had been a great day.

Thanks to all of the ATHelite team for their company and banter, and the Drumlanrig Tearfund organisers who put on an excellent event.

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