It’s less than seven days until we head to Inverness for the start of Ride the North. Fort me, this is the culmination of a year of cycling; it started with a tentative 17 mile flat outing (one eye on the road and one eye on the Heart Rate monitor) and will end with a challenging 2 day, 170 mile cycle through the rolling Aberdeenshire countryside.
Overall, I’m surprisingly relaxed about the trip. I’m relatively confident that I’ve done enough preparation so the miles don’t really worry me. I’ve done a lot of solo miles recently so I’m very much looking forward to cycling in a group, and I’m excited about taking on the challenge with friends.
That said, with a week to go I have three main concerns:
Concern 1: The first hill
I’ve become increasingly comfortable on hills over the past few weeks. Given that I consciously avoided them until March I feel like I’ve come a long way. I could do with more power in my legs but I’ve learned some tricks to help me along the way:
- Glasses off (to increase air flow and reduce the chances of sweat in the eyes)
- Open cycling jersey / top a little (to aid cooling)
- Sit up (take pressure off my chest)
- Select a low gear early (don’t start by trying to fight it as there will only be one winner!)
- Tap out a comfortable rhythm (I’ve found “Twisting by the pool” by Dire Straits works for me, I’ve no idea why because it annoys me, but it works. I have to save it until I hit the hills because if it gets into my mind for more than 10 mins it could drive me insane!)
So, I’m generally OK with the hills, in fact I look forward to them, but the first one out of Inverness is a concern for me.
If you’ve been to Inverness you’ll know there are lots of hills around. Loch Ness was carved by glaciers, and they didn’t stop with the loch. As a result, after about 5 miles we have to take on a hill. It’s difficult to really tell on a route profile, but it looks significant, not the most challenging hill of the event, but it’s so close to the start it’ll be right on us. It doesn’t really give us much time to warm up… it’ll be interesting.
I guess the good thing with being concerned about the first hill is that I’ll get it out of the way quickly. If I was concerned about the last hill I’d have the best part of 2 days to worry about it.
Concern 2: The weather
We’ll spend more than 12 hours in the saddle over the course of the event. That’s a fair amount of time in the best of circumstances. Given we’re in the North East of Scotland, it would be naïve to assume we’ll experience the best of circumstances.
Irrespective of how much you enjoy cycling, or who you’re cycling with, cycling in torrential rain when the wind is blowing a hoolie is not very much fun.
Having studied a number of different sources, I’ll predict that the weather will be “mixed”. It will inevitably have a major impact on the enjoyment factor of the overall event, so we’ll all have to keep our fingers crossed!
Concern 3: Sleeping in a tent
Looking for further adventure (and an easy, late accommodation option) we’ve “opted” to camp overnight while en route (just 1 night fortunately). Unfortunately glamping options were booked early so we’re in good old fashioned, on the ground, “at one with nature”, tents.
As far as I can remember this will be my second experience sleeping under “canvass”. My previous camping trip was while I was at school, in Snowdonia. On that occasion the weather was glorious and we spent the week outside. My abiding memories are of beautiful weather, swimming in rivers and lakes and a famous (if you were there) “hands on the A-Poles” wind-up by the teacher in charge.
I’m concerned that for this trip the tent may be one step too far. It’s a bit of a “double-down” on concern #2: the camping experience will be heavily influenced by the weather.
I suspect sleeping won’t be an issue as we’ll be tired from our day’s exertions, but the recovery from Day 1 and preparation for Day 2 could be challenging!
All in all, it’s going to be an short, exciting week for me and the other 600+ people participating in the ride… wish us all luck!