Friday, July 28, 2017

Brewin Dolphin Ochils 100 mile Sportive 2017

My last post was about hoping to get fit and lose weight in preparation for doing the Brewin Dolphin 100 Mile Ochils Sportive. As ever, these things approach pretty rapidly and I've now done it. How did it go? And did I get skinny!?

Overall- have to say it went well. It was a great day for the event with bright weather and light wind speeds. After a quick visit to the portaloos for some last minute weight loss we queued up behind the corporate entries who enjoyed priority starting positions, posh sponsored jerseys and nicer cludgies no doubt. Daf had done well to even be at the start line- a visually impaired Audi driver had knocked him off, wrecking his back and his prized Dolan a week before the event. Luckily he had yet another carbon Ultegra machine as back up. After a few minutes we were off, with un- registered 'Geraint Thomas' Gray leaving us in the dust as he chased the corporate vampires.

Meanwhile we stuck in a loose group for much of the ride. I had my £700 iPhone set up perilously on my bars via a silicon rubber thing I'd got out of Anne Summers. It was flopping about alarmingly but in the blur I could see an average speed of 29 km/hr (18.8 mph) indicated. This was faster than I'd been going in training and we still had a lot of distance left to cover. Not being familiar with any of the roads I was reluctant to give it the beans anywhere  and started getting the fear about blowing up. I pleaded a few times over the day to drop the pace back and luckily it did as we calmed down. 

(L-R) JP, Daf, Eric, me, Matt, Andy, Alan.

We wound our way round and over the Ochils into Perthshire with one small (but potentially serious) incident up on the A823 beside the River Devon. An idiot overtook us into oncoming traffic causing us all to have to brake. Eric came off his bike at the back of the group but fortunately he was unscathed. We passed Andy's young family in Auchterarder and eventually hit the road back to Fife via Path of Condie from Dunning. This climb has the the nickname of 'The Dragon' and it lived up its reputation being the toughest of the event. Steep and sustained at the 110km mark, it gave a 3km climb at an average of 6% with a hard 20% middle bit through some very steep corkscrew bends. This was gruelling physically but the weather was good and the sociable atmosphere made it enjoyable. 

On we trundled into darkest Fife until a heavy thundery shower hit forcing us to hide under the canopy of a wood for a minute. We set off again on soaking roads as Cleish hill reared up. Surely there couldn't be more like this? Why didn't I study the route profile? Is this the way to Amarillo? As I caught up the group they were at a standstill. Matt's chain had decided it'd had enough as he neared the top and snapped in disgust. Showing the skillz of a man who takes N + 1 to an art form he had it back together rapid style and we were off in a couple of minutes. 

The final section of these things always takes forever, but we eventually wound our way round to a wet finish on the edge of Loch Leven. Strava says I'd managed to maintain an average speed of 24.8 km/hr (15.4 mph). I was fairly chuffed with that- having tiny weans precluded anything quicker. Compared to my previous Sportive (the Glesga- Embra 112 miler) I actually felt good getting off the bike. It's amazing what electrolyte replacements and gels can do for your wellbeing! On the pies front I hadn't managed to lose a lot of weight (maybe a few pounds) but at least it was a start.

But what the hell- it was a good event. Well organised, a challenging course with decent food stations. Good value too. I celebrated my success by pulling a risky Sagan style wheelie over the wet finish line but only the guy in the finishing booth clocked it! There's never a talent scout when you need one. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Time to pull the finger out!

I've just signed up to do the 100 mile Ochils Sportive in June and, with it being January, it's time to roll out the cliches and say I'm going to get skinny and fit this year. 

Time to 'fess up- I'm 12 stone which is 1/2 a stone heavier than I was a year ago, and my jeans are too tight! I'm doing dry January right now and haven't drank a beer in the house for 2 months but absolutely zero weight loss has occurred. This 100 mile ride is going to take training. Hopefully I'll lose some weight on the way?

I've been choked with colds for ages but the weather forecast was too good to miss so I caught the ferry to Arran for a Winter spin. This time, for a bit of variety, I did the clockwise circuit via The Ross road which cuts up and over the rolling Southern hills from Lamlash to Kilmory.

Lochranza panorama
In my current sluggish state the 81km route felt hard, with The Ross climb being a particular killer. The Ross is an unrelenting climb of 3.6km. There's an average gradient of 7% but the hardest bit has a sustained 11% section that's 500m long. In a previous blog I'd said the Lochranza climb was the hardest, but that's just bollocks. As a comparison, Strava rates the tough Campsie's Tak ma Doon Rd climb as 6%...

I was aboard my new Planet X Kaffenback. The new machine has a steel frame, SRAM Apex 1 11 speed, hydraulic disc brakes and 28mm tyres. It's far more comfortable than my old stiff Aluminium Allez with its 23mm rubber. In stealth black with skinny steel tubes I reckon it looks pretty cool (in an old school way). 

The old bike had SRAM Apex 20 speed with a 50/34 compact. The new one has a single 42 tooth chainring and a 11 speed (11- 42 cassette). Does 11 gears mean big jumps between ratios? Not really, I find it rides pretty much identically to the old bike but with a couple of differences. Those are- 

- the bottom gear 42 x 42 (26.7") is lower than the old compact 34 x 32 (27.9"). This meant that even with my expanded Ginster's ratio I could ascend The Ross in the saddle- but it was desperately hard work. The final Lochranza climb nearly had me greeting 40km later- but that was mostly due to fatigue... 
- the top gear is also lower (102" vs 111.3") so that means I spin out earlier than before. This means I've less chance of Eddie the Eagle-ing into the top 10s for downhill segments now. To be honest, I'm happy to take the low gear advantage at the moment. I could add a larger chainring or different cassette if I become super fit later on... 

Probably the best thing about the new bike are the brakes. I've always disliked rim brakes on road bikes and mtb's. I find rim brakes are fine in bone dry conditions but add any rain and it all gets a bit dodgy. These new brakes really get the speed off nicely in the wet (and dry) in a controlled way. There's no need to dab the brakes to clear the rims of water prior to braking, they're powerful and the overall feel is nice and predictable. In my first circuit of Arran on the Allez I had a crash in the wet at Corriecravie where I couldn't get the speed off going into a tight bend, went onto the wrong side of the road then up an embankment. Caning it into greasy corners is always going to be risky on a bike so I look forward to fewer of those 'oh shit I'm going too fast' moments.
Hurtin' after the Lochranza climb
Despite the suffering aspect of this outing I did enjoy it. As Greg Lemond said, "training doesn't get easier, you just go faster." I'm sure I'll be back over to Arran pretty soon for more cycling- it's that good. 

Anyway, my immediate statement of intent is I'm going to lose weight and get fit. My first target is 11 stone on the scales. Who knows, I might even get out Winter climbing at some point?! I can dream...