Tag: etapecaledonia

Etape Caledonia – Part 2 (Andrew)

The Etape Caledonia is an 81 mile closed road sportive around Tayside. It’s one of Scotland largest bike races with over 3,000 riders taking part each year. It’s not a race. The organisers make that very clear – it’s a sportive, which is French for “We Get Cheap Insurance If We Don’t Call This A Race”.

Of course, it is a race. It’s the annual test of Todd v Todd as Iain tries (and fails) to claim the triple crowns of Todd Of The Loch (the fastest Todd around Loch Tummel), Todd of The Mountain (the fastest Todd up the highest climb at Schiehallion) and, the big one, the Yellow Todd, the fastest Todd overall and first over the finish line.

Every year, I win all three. I’m not boasting. It’s a fact. Six Todd of The Loch facts. Six Todd of the Mountain facts. Six Yellow Todd facts. Eighteen definitely 100% not boasting rock solid title winning facts.

(Well, maybe I’m boasting a wee bit – but wouldn’t you with such an impressive palmarès – which is French for “Get It Right Up Ya, Losers, Look What I’ve Won!”).

This was our seventh time at the Etape and Iain was trying mind games before the race.

“I’ve got a secret weapon.” He said.

“What is it?” I asked.

“If I told you it wouldn’t be a secret, would it?”

“If you’re secret doesn’t involve pedalling faster then it’s not going to help!”

But he had me worried. He was cycling far more than me. I’ve had to rely more on Turbo sessions than cycling outdoors. So, I thought there was a good chance he would win this year. I didn’t tell him that though instead I said:

“I don’t have a secret weapon. In fact I’m going to tell you exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to sit behind you until the very last mile then I’m going to overtake you.”

And every time he mentioned his secret weapon I’d tell him exactly the same thing except…

… I wasn’t going to do that at all. Instead I was planning to make a break as soon as the course flattened out at Loch Tummell.

In French, they call this Le Mind Game. I think. Did I mention I failed my French standard grade?

And I had a back up. I knew another rider who was starting in the same wave as us. Someone I knew was fast and who, last time they raced the Etape, completed it in just over four hours. I made sure we met him at the start and I then stuck to his wheel for the start of the race.

I had a domestique, which is French for “I Ain’t Going To Lose This So I Got Some Secret Help To Get Round”.

And the plan worked to perfection. We stuck together for the first 15 miles along gentle rolling road towards Kinloch Rannoch, before ‘dropping’ Iain just before the first feed stop.

Dropping is English for “See Ya Later, Loser!”.

After that I wanted to see how fast I could go. I had it my head that I might, with a fair wind, be able to beat four hours. In the end, my legs gave up before I did. There are two main climbs during the Etape. The first is at Schiehallion, a steady climb with some steep corners that comes as a shock to the system after 20 miles of flat roads; the second is three miles from the end, a very steep climb of less than 100 metres. My legs threw in the towel on the second climb and, after that, I knew my faint hope of getting in below four hours was over. I coasted the last few miles and rolled into Pitlochry for a time of four hours six minutes.

I then waited for Iain.

And waited.

And waited. 🙂

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(How my house might have looked that night)

Caledonian Etape 2017 – Part 1 (Andrew)

You could hear the school bell ring from our living room in Stornoway, that was the sign to go. We lived across the road from our primary school so could pack, leave and be in class before the bell stopped. It was brilliant.

Then we went to secondary school. It was five minutes away, less than a mile but still we said to our parents:

“We have to MOVE!”

We didn’t. We had to walk and we had to watch the clock because, now, we couldn’t hear the bell.

So, we walked. And, every time I’ve moved, whether for university or work, I’ve always walked or ran or cycled home.

In Glasgow, I’d walk around the Westend at university. At work, during two spells in London, I’d run first from the City to West Hampstead and then, after a second spell, from the City to Battersea. I would time how long it would take me to run and, every time, it was always quicker than catching the tube or the train – and, despite running six miles, it was also less sweaty.

In Glasgow, I commuted from the city centre to the Westend and to the Southside. Now, today, I work in Larbert and have cycled to and from Glasgow along the canal, a 90 – 120 minute commute depending on which way the wind’s blowing.

I love doing this. If I’m in a car, or bus, or underground train in London, I don’t get a sense of where I am. Running or cycling helps me connect everything together.

Running through London I would start in the City, surrounded by offices, run along Fleet Street with it’s mix of sleek offices and 17th century pubs, past the church in Aldwych and the Courts of Justice, still scarred from bombs dropped in World War 2, along past Trafalgar Square, Number 10 and the Houses of Parliament. Tourists, red buses, armed policeman and buildings that define London like the Thames. On the south bank, reaching home, I pass new flats overlooking the river, Battersea Park, a golden Buddha facing Chelsea townhouses owned by the super-rich, a dog pound, a sense of dislocation, and a roar of a plane overhead every 10 minutes descending on the Heathrow flightpath bringing new life, renewal, like blood returning to the heart.

Without running I’d never know how the world is connected. Not just by location but also by time. Every time I run I remember the times I’ve been there before. Running through London last year while on holiday, I wasn’t just running through the streets I knew, I was running through the times I knew them.

Running is time travel. Going forward, going back.

I get that feeling most of all when I return to the Caledonian Etape, 81 miles round Tayside, from Pitlochry round Loch Tummel, climbing over Schiehallion and back through the valley of Fortingal, Weem, Aberfeldy and Strathtay.

Not just a race. A memory.

A memory of coming to Aberfeldy for two weeks every summer on our summer holiday. The only two weeks we’d leave home on Stornoway and cross the Minch and come to the mainland.

Aberfeldy was a foreign country.

It had shops open on a Sunday, you could read a paper on a Sunday, you could go to the playground and the swings would be open, not tied up. It was not Stornoway where the Sabbath was sacred. It was as exotic as Istanbul.

And every year through school we would return, and most years after we left for university too. It was a second home. Our place in the sun(day).

So, when I started riding it was the Caledonian Etape I wanted to enter. A chance not just to ride but to ride my summer, to ride the roads where Aberfeldy was always, when we asked how long to go, “around the next corner and over the next hill!”.

The first time we entered we had no idea of what we were doing. We had the wrong bikes, the wrong gear, the wrong training programme (none) and a backpack filled with water and a packed lunch. It took us over six hours to finish. We would have been faster but there’s no quick way of having a cheese sandwich.

The second time we entered we were better. Better bikes. Better ideas. Still no training but, with more of an idea of what we had to do, we could help go faster even if by faster we only improved our time to under six hours.

The next few times so a gradual improvement. We’d join other riders to form groups. We’d train harder. We’d get faster. We get round in under five hours.

But one thing was constant. I always won.

This time we were riding for the seventh time. Iain promised a “secret weapon”. He was going all out for the win. I knew it would be tough but I also knew that this was my race. I wasn’t just riding against Iain, I was riding with a peloton of memories – and I was going to win.

To be continued…

 

 

 

OMG! OMG! OMG!

Read the next entry from Iain. Look at the pictures. Nice bike. Nice set-up. It looks like a nice place to train but… wait a minute.. what’s wrong with that picture…

Just like meeting Donald Trump the only thought in my head right now is…

DON’T TOUCH THE RUG!!!!!!

Where’s the wipe clean mat? What’s been soaking into that rug? Euggghhh! Gross! Unclean! Burn it! Get rid of it before it soaks into the floor and causes sweat damp (the word kind of damp, just like normal damp but leaves yellow patches) throughout the entire house!

Oh, wait a minute.

It’s okay.

Panic over.

Iain doesn’t sweat when he trains. He doesn’t go faster than 5mph. At least he doesn’t when he’s out on the road, so I can’t imagine he’s any better on the turbo…

Caledonian Etape 2017 – bring it on! Challenge me, indeed!

Twinning the Etape Caledonia (Andrew)

Last year at the Caledonian Etape Iain tried a break away at mile 70. We were heading to Aberfeldy, on a long flat stretch, he had his brand new aero bike, he turned round, took one look at me and started pumping his legs as fast as he could. He was off.

For the next three miles he didn’t look round. He kept his head down and his speed up. I sat on his wheel, waiting.

At Taymouth he finally looked round, I knew in his mind he was thinking “my job’s done, I’ve dropped him” but that’s when I picked up speed, went straight passed him and didn’t look back.

That was my fifth victory in a row.

This year, I thought it would be closer. I was wrong. I picked up speed at mile 20 as I thought we’d entered a sprint section. In previous years this section was just a mile long. This time it was 10 miles. I thought Iain was with me and we’d have a race towards the finish but, as the miles passed and I realised that I’d miscalculated I also realised Iain had not kept up. I was on my own.

I was feeling good. Despite a cold during the week I was breathing okay and not coughing too much. I kept going, setting small goals for myself. Keep up with this group. Join this chain. Pass these people on Schiehalion. Use the drops on the way to Taymouth.

I know the course so well. We would go on summer holiday to Aberfeldy and I’ve cycled parts of the route many times. It makes such a difference to know the course. You know when to push, when to relax and how long it takes between places.

With every mile I still felt fresh so I just kept going. I had some gels in my pocket so didn’t need to stop so I wondered how fast I could go. I’d hoped to finish in under 4hrs 30 mins. In the end I finished in 4 hours 11 minutes, 18 minutes faster than my previous personal best.

The twinner* again.

*twin + winner = twinner (trademark pending)

Caledonian Etape (Iain)

B+B Owner – what time do you want breakfast? 5am?

Me – Its ok. I don’t like a cooked breakfast. If you leave out cereal and milk then I’ll have that.

B+B Owner Are you sure? How about tea and coffee?

Me – No thanks! You don’t need to get up. Cereal will be great.

B+B Owner – As long as its not an issue….

Me – Thanks! Ill be happy with the cereal. Enjoy your lie in!

When I got home I rated the B+B on tripadvisor. “1 star – No cooked breakfast!!”

If that review was true (the story is but the review isn’t) then you’d think the B+B was terrible. The review is a snapshot but its not the full story.

Similarly a picture at a race is a snapshot that doesn’t give the full story.

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We both look fit and happy. It doesn’t show that we both had a heavy cold.

We’ve been doing this race since 2011. My first attempt at it was on a hybrid bike and it took nearly 7 hours to cover 81 miles. Since then we’ve been back every year. Our times have got better but there has been one constant – Andrew always beats me.

This year I thought I’d win. I didn’t. He dropped me at mile 20. I tried to catch up but when I pushed hard my chest would seize up and I’d have to cough.

I accepted it wasn’t going to be my day. The rest of the race was spent at a steady non coughing pace. I finished with a personal best so I can’t complain….too much.

The next day I felt rough so I worked at home. I felt much better for doing so.

When I got back to the office on Tuesday nobody believed I felt rough. My boss said: “But you and your brother look fine in the picture!”