Tag Archives: Ride the North

I’m ready!

My preparations are almost complete.  I’ve successfully completed my final training ride.  The dirty kit is in the washing machine.  The train tickets are printed.  Time to put my feet up!

If I needed convincing that I am ready to start the Euro City Cycle, today’s ride was enough.  A steady 60 miles, however it featured an ascent of the Suie (from the North, i.e. the hard way).

The hill has become a bit of a mythical beast over the past weeks, not helped by the fact that it’s the feature climb on the Ride the North.  It’s an elevation of just over 230 metres at gradients of up to 12%.  There are more challenging mountains to take on, I just haven’t cycled up them yet.

The nerves were jangling as we approached the lower slopes, but it didn’t take long for them to be wiped out by the physical exertion.  In the end there weren’t any major dramas.  There was a bit of huffing and puffing, but a successful climb was never in doubt!

The beast tamed.  My physical preparations are complete.  🙂

The view from the top. Worth the effort in so many ways!

Logistical preparations are also complete, although a Tube Strike in London promises to make the transfer a little bit less predictable.  I’m going to have to just suck it and see.  Hopefully a considerate cabbie will take pity on me!

A few hours of focused packing will complete the kit preparation.  Louise thinks it’s hysterical that I’ve given so much thought to the kit and associated packing.  I’ve never been one to spend a lot of time preparing for travel.  I’ve always taken the view that as long as I have my passport and a credit card then nothing can go wrong.

For this trip, there are so many items that could ruin (or at least significantly disrupt) the trip in so many different ways, that I’m a bit nervous.  In no particular order:  bike, passport, medication, rail tickets, wallet, cycling shoes, towel, laptop, helmet, etc. etc.

As I say, a few hours of focused packing is required!

To Do List 2

That just leaves me with the small matter of “raising money and awareness”.  I’m really grateful to everyone that has sponsored me.  Together we’ve raised over £2,500 for the British Heart Foundation.  It’s not too late contribute… just click here.

As far as awareness is concerned, I’m also very grateful for your help!  I’ve been working on the basis that if my experiences help one other person than it’s been worthwhile.  The more people that are aware of the risks of heart disease, or able to recognise the symptoms of a heart attack, or understand that a major medical incident doesn’t necessarily take away hope, the better.

I appreciate I’m very lucky.  I’m hoping we can give other people a little bit of luck too!

Homeward bound

We live at the top of a hill.  It’s a hill of reasonable stature that gets gradually steeper as you approach the top.  As a place to live it’s good it you’re concerned about rising sea levels or floods in general.  It isn’t so good however as a starting point for exercise if you’re recovering from a Heart Attack.

There are some other benefits of living at the top of a hill!

In the early days of my rehabilitation, when I first arrived home from hospital, I tried to avoid the slopes as much as possible (see An athlete’s pulse and “little” walks).  It was possible to do with a 5 minute walk, but I soon had to take them on.  My twice daily walks would incorporate slow, steady ascents, allowing me to gradually build my strength and confidence.

Since I’ve been riding my bike I’ve avoided the hill completely.  Instead, I’ve put the bike rack on the car and driven to a flatter area to start and finish my rides.  It’s been a pain, but it reduced the risk of pushing myself too hard.

Given the girls have never managed to scale the hill on their bikes either it has held fear for the whole family.  I have therefore had strong support for my conservative, risk averse approach.

Over the past few months the hill seems to have grown.  Like a volcanic island, it has risen a few inches every time I have driven up it.  Concern over the impact the hill might have on my health has allowed in to grow into a challenge of almost biblical proportions.

Yesterday, however, I decided to take it on…

The gentle ascent to our house

I finally managed to get away from work early enough to get out for a ride before darkness descended, taking advantage of another beautiful afternoon.  I did a reasonable mid-week ride (my first), but the majority of it was just a warm up for the final ascent.

As I approached the lower slopes I felt strong but a little anxious.  I applied the lessons learned at the weekend;  low gear, steady cadence, maintain momentum. always try to keep something in reserve.

It turned out to be a bit of an anti-climax.  I made it without any distress and not even a thought of getting off to walk.  An anti-climax, but another major milestone!  Overcoming this hurdle will take about 30 minutes off most of my rides.  It’ll make heading out in the evening more doable, and also finish them off with a cheeky little ascent.

It also served as a reminder of how far I’ve come since last June and my “little” walks!

Inverness, here I come!

An Introduction to Climbing

Until now, I have tried to make my cycling trips as flat as possible.  I have focused on trying to get some miles into my legs without making the miles too hard.  Although this is easier said than done in the North of Scotland, the distances I’ve been covering have made it possible.

This has been a good strategy in building my general strength and fitness, as well as developing my bike handling skills, but it’s only going to take me so far.  In particular, I’m going to need to get used to some more challenging hills before I am ready to take on the “Ride the North” (RtN)challenge in late August.

Today was the first of my introduction to hills.  To provide the education, I rode with two friends who will be joining me on the RtN.  They are experienced cyclists and more than happy to share their knowledge (if only it was so easy to share strength and stamina!).

The plan was to head into the hills and attempt the most challenging climb we’d face during the RtN (The infamous Suie).  Recognising that it’s not to be taken lightly, we took the hill on the “easy” way.  This meant it would be less steep, but longer.  A stiff and chilly wind, bordering on “brutal” at times, made the whole outing a bit more “fun”.

The top of The Suie… blowing a gale today!

The first two lessons of the day had surprisingly little to do with hills:

  1. Be precise on your meeting instructions
    It turns out that even relatively small towns can have more than one shop of the same brand.  Our plan to “Meet outside the Co-Op at 07.45” was slightly flawed.  Less than 100 metres apart, the two shops were not in line of sight from each other.  Inevitably, therefore I waited outside one, while Mr P & Mr W waited around the corner, thinking I’d slept in.
  2. Check your bike after it’s been to the shop
    It wasn’t until we’d set off that Mr W discovered his seat had been adjusted while it had been in the (bike) shop.  This resulted in an abortive start to our outing.  Fortunately it was a simple fix, and we had the necessary tools.  Today it was an amusing irritation, but t could easily have been something more material which would have ruined the ride.
  3. Start slow, build momentum
    I struggled on the first two significant climbs of the day.  My heart rate shot up quickly, rocketing above my maximum level.  Unfortunately I didn’t have the gears to allow me to change down and catch a breath.  Instead, I had to experience the humiliation of completing some of the climbs on foot.
    By the third climb I had a better strategy:  Rather than pushing hard, I eased right off at the start of the climb, changing down into an “easy” gear.  It’s much easier to avoid hitting the wall, than it is to re-cover from it (while still on the bike at least!).
    Even with this approach, I may still invest in some new chainrings before the RtN to give me a little extra scope on the steeper hills.
  4. Don’t expect to do it all in one go
    When I did athletics, we’d describe a sudden and catastrophic loss of strength / energy as “dying”.  This phrase has taken on different connotations for me over the past 9 months.
    I now recognise that it’s important to stay within safe limits and not push myself too hard.  There is absolutely no reason to risk hurting myself.
    If this means getting off and walking from time to time, so be it.  There’s always next time.,,  next time I will be better prepared, and more able.
stelvio-pass

Maybe next year…

So, I’ve had my initial introduction.  The big hills still make me nervous.  We’ve confirmed that I have a long way to go before I’m ready to take them on, but I feel like I’m heading in the right direction.  After all, I can only prepare one turn of the pedals at a time!

Making connections

I’ve found Sunday mornings are much more enjoyable with a warm glow of satisfaction from some early morning exercise inside me.  This morning, having managed to drag myself out of my warm bed I spent a productive hour in the pool.

I may be deluded, but the pool seemed quieter and more business-like than it has done in recent weeks – perhaps the impact of New Year Resolutions is already being diluted.  We can only hope!  The fact that it was almost light at 8am also made a positive difference… roll on spring!

This morning my fire has also been stoked by increased levels of Social Media activity, which is always exciting…

The arrival of February saw the start of “Heart Health Month”.  The Press & Journal, North of Scotland’s local quality newspaper, kindly marked the event with a feature on my Heart Health story looking forward to the Euro City Cycle in May.

P&J

(Unfortunately at time of writing the Press & Journal online “Lifestyle” section is “down”, as is the British Heart Foundation Healthy Heart Month web page.  I’ll update the links when they’re up and running.)

The Press & Journal article was picked up by the “Ride the North” team and publicised on their Facebook page (which is up and running!) and has resulted in some fantastic publicity, and some sponsorship for which I’m really grateful!

Ride the North

“Ride the North is a two day, 170 mile cycle challenge through the beautiful scenery of the Grampian Highlands in the North of Scotland.”  It’s a fantastic and highly sociable way to see the area.  Given it’s held in Scotland in August, perfect weather is almost guaranteed!

The event started in 2011 with a group of 38 cyclists.  Since then it’s really caught the imagination of the North East Cycling community – this year there will be over 600 cyclists taking part.  The event works closely with its Charity Partners and Sponsors to raise some serious amounts of money!  It’s amazing what a few good people with a common goal can achieve, and I’ve a suspicion this is only the start!

Spaces for this year’s event are sold out however there may be some Charity places available if you’re interested.  If it’s the same as this year, entry for next year’s event will go on sale in November.

For me, “Ride the North” will be the third, final, and, I suspect most physically challenging cycle of the summer.  I’m hoping by that stage I’ll be over the feelings of “can I do it” and be able to focus on “doing it”!  Can’t wait!