Tag Archives: The Suie

Ride the North: Day 2

Fortunately it wasn’t raining when we got up. Having had torrential rain for most of the night it was a relief to be able to get up and pack up before it started again.

The night had provided a few hours’ sleep.  A combination of the strange bedding, makeshift pillow and sounds of nature had interrupted what should have been a great sleep.  On the positive side, the sound of the rain had masked the sound of snoring being generated by my fellow campers.

Breakfast Day 2 (1)

Breakfast day 2. The high spirits of Friday evening had been replaced by tiredness and nervous anticipation of what lies in store

As we made our way to breakfast, the exertions of the previous day were still fresh in our minds and our bodies.  It promised to be a slow start to the day.  The rain resumed as we prepared to leave.  It was an almost constant companion for the day.  Clothing was a tough selection; the weather was wet and warm.

Although on paper the route was easier than the previous day, it featured two challenging climbs; Cabrach and the Suie.  I was keen to operate well within myself during the morning session.  I wasn’t feeling particularly special, and I was keen to make sure I had some gas in the tank for the challenges of the afternoon.

Motivation 1

There were many forms of motivation along the way

The Cabrach however didn’t offer anywhere to hide. For me, it was a long, hard slog of almost an hour in total.  I just had to keep my head down and keep plodding away.  Fortunately motivation was high, partly generated by personal pride and partly by the presence of other participants.  Lunch was a welcome break!

Lunch Day 2

Lunch on day 2 was a slightly squelchy affair

The Suie was a different beast altogether.  There was a lot of hype about the climb; it is relatively short but the sharpest we would have to contend with.  I haven’t had to walk up a hill in a long time, but the thought certainly entered my mind as I trudged my way up.  The fatigue of the previous 140 miles certainly made itself known.

For me, one of the satisfying aspects of Ride the North is the fact that my heart health wasn’t really a factor.  Over the past year I’ve got myself fit enough that the cycling 170 miles over two days was well within my capability.  The only exception to this the ascent of the Suie; my heart rate monitor was certainly a factor during the climb.

During the ascent my heart rate got high enough for me to want to reduce it a little.  Walking was obviously an option, and one that my legs would have appreciated too, but it wasn’t what the ride was all about for me.  Instead I dropped in behind someone who seemed to be struggling more than I was, and kept tapping away on the pedals.  I was slowly able to bring my heart rate down. The climb was very slow, but I made it to the top.

The Suie 1

The Suie on a finer day… fortunately we did have the sun on our backs as we reached the summit

With the Suie behind us, the sun came out (very briefly) and we made our way home.

I thought one of the remarkable aspects of the event was the general level of preparedness of the participants.  Although the field was made up of men and women of a wide range of ages and physiques, everyone seemed to be fit and thoroughly prepared.  It was an absolute pleasure to be part of such a strong, good natured field!

Particular thanks must go to the two ladies that towed us the last few miles home.  Having flirted with an over-taking move, we quietly tucked in behind and took their lead to the line.  After 12 hours in the saddle it was a relief to be able to sit in behind two such strong riders.

We politely dropped off to allow them to take the adulation of the crowd at the finishing line as the heavens opened once again and we rolled over the finishing line… Ride the North, done!

Almost there 1

Before the final leg, and the final downpour… almost there!

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The wet weather on day 2 meant my phone stayed safely in its waterproof bag for most of the day.  The good news is that it still works but unfortunately I hardly took any photos!

Davina got me up this morning…

Having lacked energy and enthusiasm, yesterday turned into little more than a “duvet day”.  A mid-afternoon snooze set me up nicely for the evening’s golf.

Given there’s a little over three weeks until the start of the Euro City Cycle, I felt a bit guilty about not getting out on the bike.  The guilt was exacerbated somewhat by stories of epic training rides and sportives in the sunny south from other Euro City Cycle participants.  However, it was a good decision to take it easy, to save it for another day.

***

It seems as though Sports Relief has been a real inspiration this year.  As well as raising huge amounts of cash for good causes, the feature challenges have set the bar high for those of us looking to do something remarkable ourselves.  In particular, the courage and stamina that Davina McCall showed on her “Beyond Breaking Point” challenge (incidentally, when did they come up with that name?) is a real motivator as we each look to “channel our inner Davina”.

I know the feeling... but for me it usually only lasts a few hours! Photo Credit:  Alex Walker / Comic Relief / PA Wire

I know the feeling… but for me it usually only lasts a few hours!
Photo Credit: Alex Walker / Comic Relief / PA Wire

This morning was very similar to yesterday (bright and blustery), however, Davina’s inspiration was enough to get me out of bed and out on the bike.  Cycling is much easier in a group, not least because peer pressure gets you to the start line.  Today I was cycling solo.

Fortunately, the hardest thing was leaving home.  Any doubts were left behind.

I’ve slowly ramped up the miles over the past few weekends.  Today I took on my longest solo ride, at around 62 miles.  I also took on the climbs that I last attempted during my “Introduction to climbing“.  Having walked on two of them last time, I was keen to stay in the saddle this time.

The view from the top of the Suie this afternoon, the "high point" of my ride.

The view from the top of the Suie this afternoon, the “high point” of my ride.

It was tough going, not helped by strong gusts of wind, but I managed to rattle off the hills without any particular dramas.  Four and a half hours after heading out I crept up my final climb and home.  The “laziness” of yesterday behind me, satisfied, and back on track for the challenge.

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So, a big thanks to Davina!  I’m sure she had a huge sense of satisfaction when she finished her challenge and counted the money, but she should also be proud of her legacy; whether people are raising money for charity, or simply looking to get themselves in shape, she has shown us the way.  No excuses!

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!