Saturday, June 26, 2010

Trossachs Ton

Last Sunday (20th) I did the Trossachs Ton 100 miler (or 98.85 as it turned out on my Garmin annoyingly). As June hasn't been great cycling wise due to falling onto a big pile of rocks I wasn't sure if I was going to actually go for the full distance or do the shorter one.

It was a bit of a last minute decision to enter anyway, I entered mid week with an eye on the forecast which was pretty good and thought it would be good to tie it in with a visit to my folks on father's day weekend.

A quick 25 minutes on the M9 from my folks on the Sunday morning saw me parked up in Stirling and as I rolled to registration I decided to go for the full distance, sod it. Plan was to settle into a steady pace, eat and drink regularly, actually look at the scenery occasionally as the Trossachs is a lovely part of the world and basically just get to the end. The route had around 6000ft of climbing so it wasn't a brute. Two major long (but alpine style) climbs: the 3 mile long Duke's Pass at about 22 miles and the 5 mile long Crow Road at 75.

Set off just before 8 and the first 20 miles are pretty flat, I'd forgotten how much of a plain Stirling was on, there was a reason they built the castle where they did, can see for miles from it. I was kind of sitting in behind a group, not too close as there was some shonky riding going on but close enough that I was getting some benefit. It was a bit windy and there was a bit of cloud cover, however it was due to get quite warm later on.

Soon we were at the bottom of the Duke's Pass, quite a few 12 and 13% ramps at the bottom and my legs didn't seem happy but I think it was just the transition to climbing. It soon eased off and steadily climbed away and my legs found their rhythm, I even overtook a few people. The steady climb gave way to a steady descent, easy to keep a really good speed going and not too many tight corners to worry about, just the odd cavernous pothole and a corking view - theme for the ride really.

Soon into the first very, very well stocked feed station. Lots of flapjack, biscuits, jelly babies and other goodies on offer. I stocked up on some jelly babies and some chunks of flapjack, topped up the bottles and set off on the road around Loch Katrine. I'd taken my gilet and armwarmers off at the feed station as things felt like they were warming up, got about 10 metres out of the station onto the lochside and stopped to put the gilet back on, the wind was strong and cold blowing up the loch, brr.

The road was single lane but basically closed to traffic apart from water authority vehicles (Loch Katrine is the main reservoir for Glasgow..and it was pretty empty looking). It was typical lochside road, up and down and twisty. On the outward side it was generally heading uphill. There were a few other cyclists around but I quickly decided to ride in my own space after watching a few near misses as people didn't quite make bends or slithered around on gravel.

With it being single lane there were effectively two clear lines where the vehicle tyres travel but lots of gravel piled up in the middle. It was also forested so the edges of the road had pine needles strewn everywhere, add to that some fair old potholes and I took it steady and kept plenty of space around me. As the road twisted around the edge of the loch it seemed to move in and out of the wind. Once around the end of the loch the wind briefly became a tail wind and the track started heading down.

I had settled on eating solid food approximately every 10 miles or so and drinking regularly, anytime I saw someone else go for their bottles I took in some fluid too even if I thought I didn't need to. I had a bottle of energy drink and one of plain water and alternated each drink.

Once off the Loch Katrine road it was back onto a slightly wider but still twisty and pothole strewn open road. The potholes were just unbelievable, often seemingly covering the entire road and being unavoidable. A few cars were travelling in the opposite direction so had to ride on the left and the dappled light through the trees made spotting the holes difficult too. I manualled the road bike over several huge ones I couldn't avoid, somehow managing not to explode the rear tyre or get any sort of puncture.

The road surface was so broken and holed there was no way I would take my hand off the bars to warn anyone behind me, the riders in front of me were clinging on for grim death too. At least it was mainly downhill, got stuck behind a camper van for a bit on the twisty road but managed to draft it a bit through Aberfoyle so I forgave it!

I rolled into the second feed station at The Rob Roy hotel, Aberfoyle just after 50 miles. It was billed as a "lunch stop" and they had proper food. My plan was to have a proper break, use the loo (proper loos, fab), top up bottles etc. I queued up for some pasta with a savoury meat sauce which was great after all the sweet stuff. I ate that and some cheese salad then was itching to get going again. I still had the Crow Road to come at 75 miles so I was very mindful of saving some energy for it and took off at a steady pace.

I found this section the hardest by far, mainly because it was seemingly into the wind again and I was on my own and it was quite a busy road. A couple of groups sped past but I thought they were going too fast for the effort I wanted to put out at this stage. It was quite undulating which broke things up a bit. I could see Dumgoyne in the distance and I knew the course went somewhere near it but it just never seemed to get any closer.

Eventually whizzed past the Glengoyne Distillery where I could see the WHW and wondered how Kate had got on. Things were starting to warm up, the cloud cover had gone but the wind was still there in my face. Blew into the last feed stop at the bottom of the Crow Road still feeling pretty good. I could see the climb snaking up the hill in a very alpine style, I would be turning back on myself and realised I would be out of the cooling wind once heading up.

Stocked up on more jelly babies and had a caffienated gel for that last kick for the end then started up the climb. Like the Duke's Pass the Crow started with some 12 and 13% ramps but my legs were happier this time. It soon eased off and I kicked the cadence up a few notches and started overtaking people, lots of people. I really enjoyed the climb, seemed to suit me though it was a bit warm.

Only one person overtook me and it was a very fit looking roadie bloke stomping up in the big ring. A switchback with a 10% ramp had me out of the saddle briefly but then it was fairly easy gradient to the top. It took quite a while to get to the actual top but the five miles of up passed quite quickly, one of the motorbike marshall's gave me a thumbs up as he passed and said I had made it look easy.

Once over the top it was onto the long steady down where I had a near crash nearly missing a turn....because the view was just jaw dropping, it really was and I stopped looking where I was going. Took it slow for a while to stare then started heading down, fast and open descent apart from one dodgy sharp turn near the bottom then it was onto the last stretch along Carron Valley Reservoir to the finish.

I knew from the course profile that it was quite lumpy for a while but I was still climbing well, the road was very quiet but still had quite a few potholes. It wasn't too twisty which was great for pedalling hard downhill, not something I tend to do very often. I think most of the last 10 miles were downhill which was nice. Rode over the M9, out of the quiet roads and into Stirling and a bit of traffic, was quite a sudden change. I felt good all the way to the finish. Total time 6:35 and ride time of 6:05 with 16.2 average, pretty pleased with that as I did most of it on my own.

The event wasn't officially timed but as a first 100 miler it was a good one to pick, great scenery and good organisation.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oh no...

...the work vending machine now stocks Haribo Starmix and Tangfastics! I lasted a whole morning but just caved for some Starmix. This is very dangerous.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Back on the bike!

Didn't get out for much of a ride on Saturday after all, spent a good part of the afternon trying to get the front mech on the Spesh to work. It was seized solid and given the amount of (probably road salt filled) gunk I pulled out of it even after a serious clean I'm not surprised and a little ashamed, even a regular spray of the mech with WD-40 would have gone a long way to preventing the build up. Lots of WD-40, penetrating oil and lube later it would move quite happily up the chainringa with cable pull but just wouldn't return back down without manual intervention so it's borked. It was the original mech that came with the bike in 2001 so it's not done too badly, new one on it's way. Lets see what a mess I can make of fitting it....

I stuck the mech in middle ring position to make the bike rideable and gave the Spesh a bit of a test ride, only five miles and my hip wasn't massively happy during or after really. Sunday was another day off (raining so not too bad) and last night I took the road bike out on some local hills, nothing brutal and all seemed fine. Took a while to get into the ride as it does after some time off but I was buzzing by the end.

My hip still seems a little stiff in the mornings at the minute but I've ridden into work today and felt great, rucksack didn't bother me either.

Running is still out though which is annoying, was hoping to dust off my trail shoes last week but falling over put paid to that and an experimental jog across the work car park yesterday showed I need to leave it a bit longer.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bruises and bike maintenance

The aftermath of my inability to stand on my own two feet has meant no riding this week. I have a couple of corking bruises, even by my standards (I do bruise very well it has to be said) the one on my leg is a stoater, it continues on round behind my leg which you can't quite see in the photo. Annoyingly the non-purple bit in the centre is what really hurts which means it will be hanging around for weeks, just as well I no longer wear skirts to work.

The bruises are just a minor irritation, my left hip pretty much seized up and feels very bruised indeed, I also have a very, very painful spot on my back, at the bottom of my ribs and about three centimetres to the left of my spine (I know). Even today it is still sending shooting pains if I prod it, however there is no bruising on my back as yet. I can't wear any sort of rucksack and surprisingly using the clutch whilst driving has been very painful.

Today, I seem to be getting normal movement back in my hip at last and driving isn't so painful. Planning on doing a road ride tomorrow to see how things are.

I've made good use of the week (and some of last week too) to learn some bike maintenance skills as mine have extended to changing the odd pair of brake pads and lubing the odd chain. All my bikes have something wrong with them, some serious and as Jez is away until the end of the month I kind of had no choice. It's costing me a small fortune in boring bike parts.

I've had to change the bottom brackets on the Spesh and the road bike, my original plan was to practice on the Spesh first then do the road bike but the Spesh had other ideas. Even using the old clamping the tool in a vice and using the whole frame as a lever failed to budge it. I poured a load of penetrating oil down the seat tube and left it overnight. Luckily the road bike one was easy to change.

As this was the Saturday and I borked my back on the Sunday there was no way I could twist enough to have another go so I borrowed an impact wrench from a guy at work who said he'd managed to get two stuck BB's out with it. It still took a bit of persuasion, I had to apply it for a solid 15 seconds but it did the job. What a racket it made but it was good fun, I had a brief look around the garage to see if I could find something else to attack with it but saw sense and packed it away. Impact Wrench: 3 BB's: 0!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Surpassing myself falling off *

(* actually, should really be "falling over" as I was stood next to the bike at the time).

Sunday just past Ed and I headed out on offroad on a great loop neither of us have done for ages, effectively a half MTL route. Starting from Clowbridge Res, picking up the MTL for a while until on Deerplay, past Thieveley Pike and down to the Bacup Road, over that then heading through the post industrial landscape towards Ramsden Clough on some interesting bridleways, pick up the MTL around Whitworth again and a pretty much follow it all the way back, with a diversion into the new stuff at Cragg on the way.

Set off into fairly persistent rain and low cloud, the surface easy going due to being MTL and still pretty dry. Once off the MTL and particularly over the Bacup Road find actual boggish tracks for a while, it's a grassy slog generally but I've seen it a lot worse. We once did this route in the winter into a raging headwind, it took us three hours to go 12 miles due to the wind and soft tracks. The bike was actually good and filthy for the first time in ages.

Anyway, skittered down a short, steepish, grassy slope and got bogged down in some rocks. The track was raised, with a drop to either side. I did think about getting going again then thought better of it, got off the bike at the edge of the narrow section to push it on a bit. I'm not sure what happened exactly but as I pushed the bike it sort of fell over onto me, I obviously wasn't very well balanced and I just timbered right over like a sack of spuds off the side of the track, bike landing on top of me. Unfortunately it was onto:

Right onto that big pile of pointy rocks, track is on the left. It wasn't quite onto my back but almost and not surprisingly it really hurt. Due to the Titus being on top of me I couldn't actually move, fortunately a very concerned Ed picked the bike up off me and I got up. Nothing was broken (probably) so decided to get riding asap, usually the best thing to do, keep moving so it doesn't seize up. This was about 7 miles into what in the end was a 30 mile ride.

I can normally tell by the state of my riding how bad a "crash" was (not that I can call it a crash), it quickly became clear that the last thing I wanted to do was fall off again and add to the can imagine how and tense wussy my riding became, I had to shout at myself, a lot to get off the brakes and look ahead etc. I don't know why it didn't occur to me to cut the ride short and try to head back to the car but it didn't. I was actually enjoying being out in the mud and rain, I thought the pain would ease didn't.

The long drag up Rooley Moor Road was a complete miseryfest for me again, legs were fine (apart from the huge throbbing bruise above my left knee) but my lower back had gotten progressively more sore and stiff. I stood up once in an effort to stretch it and it felt like someone had knifed me in the back, I'm sure I saw stars briefly. The sun had also decided to come out especially for the climb and for once the Rooley Moor headwind was missing just to add to my overall misery.

By the time we got to Cragg it hurt the least sitting and pedalling steadily, standing pedalling was excruciating, standing without pedalling was a bit less excruciating but the worst thing was transitioning from not pedalling to pedalling, particularly if spinning madly due to too low a gear choice. I basically yelped and grimaced my way all around the fab Cragg trails (and they were good) but I was in no fit state to do much other than hang on and pedal a bit (as low cadence as possible). We decided against another lap!

By this time any lumps and bumps on the trail seemed to vibrate up into my back, I was on a full-suspension, I hate to think what the hardtail would have been like. The descent down to Waterfoot, normally a favourite, passed slowly in a blur of clenched teeth and whimpers. Thankfully, the rest of the route is fairly easyish going but getting on and off for gates really hurt, particularly when my Camelbak re-settled itself on my back. We finally got back to Clowbridge, total relief! Except I had forgotten about the last two flights of wooden steps down into the car park, it was like someone attacked my back with a pneumatic drill as I rattled down them, there were tears at that point.

Getting packed up was interesting, my ability to bend was almost zero and getting out of the car at the other end was painful.

Having said all that it was a good ride, really like that loop!