Etape Caledonia 2018 (Andrew)

Recovery

It’s not often you see someone carrying a spare tyre when they’re out riding. A tube, yes. A tyre, not so much.

What are the chances you’ll need a spare tyre in the middle of a race? Or worse, in the middle of a race that you ‘d be planning to race for six months? Or worse, 10 miles into that race, you need a tyre and you don’t even get the sense you’d even started it.

What are the chances? Pretty high actually, if you’re me. I had a tyre explode 10 miles into the Etape Du Tour – a race which follows a stage of the Tour De France.

A rip in the tyre wall meant a wait at the side of the road for a motorbike support.  And then another wait as the support checked if they had any spare wheels they could give me before I was finally told “the only wheels you’ll see are the four on the bus that’s coming to pick you up!”.

I remembered this horrible memory on Sunday as I waited at the side of the road, this time just after the five mile point, for motorbike support. I was taking part in the Etape Caledonia and had selected the wrong gear before climbing a short sharp hill. I tried to change gear. My chain slipped. It became caught in the crank and it became so twisted and knotted even Alexander The great would have said “I may have conquered the world – but, fek’s sake, even that knot’s beyond me!”

But, as I waited for the inevitable conversation with the mechanic that would lead to the sweep up truck, he said:

“Wait, is that a quick release link?”

Before he pressed the chain, split it in half, threaded it through and released the knot in 30 seconds. He then threaded the chain back, linked it together and said: “You’re good to go!”

And I had a second flashback. I remembered in January I’d tried to change the chain, failed miserably at removing the pins, destroying the chain tool in the process, before I’d replaced the chain again with quick release links.

Thank you, January Andrew! You’re a star! (Even if you didn’t know what you were doing and was just following the first YouTube mechanic video you could find).

So, despite starting again near the back of field, as every one had passed as the bike was fixed, at least I was starting again this time

As for the race, a new three mile loop adds an interesting challenge to the first half and some cracking views of Schiehallion. A rebrand gives some cracking looking jerseys. And, despite a heatwave on Saturday and forecast of a dry day with more to come, there was still a couple of spots of rain as we passed Loch Tummell. The Caledonian Etape – never knowingly dry no matter what the forecast!

The highlight of the race however came as I reached the 70 mile point. I saw a man with a spare tyre tied onto the panniers on the back of his bike, I didn’t think “Ha! He won’t need that!”. Instead,  I thought: “Well played, sir, well played indeed!”

(Oh, and Iain claims he won – but the official time shows a dead heat, so I’m still the undisputed heavy weight champion of the Etape Caledonia!)

Glentress Trail 21K (Andrew)

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“Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance” is referred to by the British Army as the ‘seven P’s’.

Let me add another P. Prior Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

You might say ‘prior’ is implied by ‘proper’ but, after the Glentress Trail Half Marathon, I want to emphasise how important it is to plan things in advance.

Not that I’m very good at that. I change route and distance mid-run depending on how I feel and whether I ran down a particular street before or “Oh, what’s that over there?”. Which makes runs more interesting but it doesn’t help me prepare for races where running a route is part of the whole challenge.

Perhaps I should take up orienteering but, the only time I met an orienteer, he patiently (and in depth) explained why and how he adjusted the stitching of his shoes to craft a pair of trainers that were better suited to run on an incline. No sport should require a detailed knowledge of cross stitching. Orienteering is just fast rambling with embroidery.

I thought I’d prepared for Glentress. I’d checked the weather – a perfect dry, if cold, day after a week of dry cold days guaranteeing a mud free run – and I’d checked the pre-race information for recommended kit and brought it all with me in case there was an inspection.

I even checked Iain’s Strava profile for the race from November. And, from that, I worked out that it would be six miles of climbing and six miles of descending. The profile almost looked like a pyramid.

So, mile 1, with ankles stiff and complaining as they failed to warm up while running up hill, I started to count the miles in my head as my Garmin beeped them off.

Mile 1 done. Okay, only five miles of climbing to go.

Mile 2. Some flats. Free speed. Only four miles to go.

By mile 10, when I was thinking, “What another false summit?!?”, Iain finally admitted something he’d suspected from mile 2. It was a different route!

Instead of six miles up and six miles down it was over 10 miles up (with some flats) and then a legs flailing, almost falling two mile descent back to the start.

Of course, if I was a soldier, the seven P’s would have told me to read the website course and not rely on Iain’s previous route. If I’d checked the website I’d have spotted it was a different course.

That’s why I add the eighth P. There’ no point figuring out where you went wrong halfway up a hill on mile 10 –  checking is essential!

The race itself is tough – did I mention the 10 miles of climbing? – but an excellent and varied route through the mountain bike trails of Glentress. There’s also a 10k and a marathon option (twice round) if you fancy a different challenge.

Kirkintilloch 12.5K 2018 (Andrew)

There are two types of runners. There are runners who park beside the start line and then there’s runners who park on Mars – to give themselves a bit more of a challenge by running 55 million kilometres as ‘warm up’.

I’m a runner who parks beside the start line. If I had a choice, I’d park on the start line. Warming up is just wasted energy after all. Why run before you need to run?!?

Now, some people – coaches, athletes and professionals – will tell you that warming up is an essential part of the whole running experience. If you don’t warm up then your muscles are cold and stiff and more likely to break. But those people – those experts – have clearly never had warm up in Scotland in January when it’s cold and wet and miserable and the thought of spending 30 seconds stretching each hamstring is as enticing as sharing a hot tub with Donald Trump.

Scotland is not a country for warming up. It’s a country for running as fast as you can out your front door until you run as fast as you can back in your front door and straight into a hot shower.

Which is what I wanted to do after Kirkintilloch 12.5K.

The Kirkintilloch 12.5 is a hilly circuit around the edge of Kirkintilloch on mostly old farm roads. It’s also one of the most exposed races with the top of every hill giving the freezing cold winds a good 50 mile standing start to breeze right through you.

It also doesn’t help that there’s very few car parking spaces near the start so, before the race, there was also a battle between the runners who like to park next to the start line to actually park next to the start line. Most failed.

We saw quite a few running a mile along the road from the centre of Kirkintilloch to the edge of the town, where the race started.

Luckily, we found a spot on a side street not far from the start as otherwise who knows what might have happened if we’d had to run before we ran. (We’d have probably run round faster as we were warmed up but that’s beside the point!)

The race itself featured a cold wind, some ice on the side of the road and a Penguin biscuit at the finish line. It also had a few sharp wee hills and a couple of longer drags. The good thing though is that the hill you race up at the start is also the hill you race down at the end. At which point we could see people cooling down.

Don’t get me started on cooling down. It’s Scotland. In Scotland, if you cool down any further you’ll turn into Frosty the Snowman.

Instead, don’t warm up, never cool, just park near the finish line, you know it makes sense.

 

 

Antonine Trail Race 2017 (Andrew)

Normally you get a banana at the end of a run but, yesterday at the Antonine Trail Race, we got a big banana at the start – along with two skeletons, several witches and a Homer Simpson.

That’s what happens when you have a race on Halloween weekend.

We didn’t join in. It was tough race and the only fancy dress I wanted was a jet pack to help get up and over the two hills that made up most of the route. First up, Croy Hill, a long climb through muddy tracks and thick grass, then Bar Hill, another long climb along a forest track before, cruelly, the race finished with another climb up Croy Hill.

It was a fantastic day, sunny, bright, and with a slight chill that made it impossible to decide what to wear – assuming you were wearing running gear and not a large yellow fruit costume – as it was too cold for a t-shirt at the start but too warm to run in two t-shirts a mile after starting. I choose a single t-shirt and then stayed in the car with the heater on until the race was about to start. This is my version of warming up…!

The race was mostly off-road and on narrow tracks. While dry, the previous week’s rain had left much of it covered in thick mud. The first few miles were spent doing the bandy legged hop leap and jump of someone half runner/half frog.

The good news was that you could follow the runner in front of you and try and follow their footsteps on the basis that if they cleared a path then you would just be stepping into the hole they’ve already created in the mud. So, if you want to keep your trainers clean when running through mud just follow someone with big feet in front of you.

The race was tough, with a few steep climbs (which in this context means, ‘walks up hill’ rather than ‘gets out the rappelling gear’) but some great views across to the Trossachs and outwards Falkirk and the east coast.

You can see part of it on this short video:

The Dirty Reiver 2017 (Andrew)

The Dirty Reiver 130 (80 miles) is a gravel race along the access roads that service the vast areas of forest covering the border of Scotland and England.

A gravel race is basically an off-road race and, as such, you don’t want to use a road bike.

The clue’s in the name: Road bike for…. roads. Off-road bike for… going off the road.

It should have been obvious but, oh no, not me, I knew better. Or worse, as it turned out…

The Dirty Reiver started last year and it’s based at Keilder Castle in Northumberland, an an area of the country that I, and it turned out, the mobile network, have never been.

Keilder is home to Europe’s largest man-made lake, though why there’s a lake in the middle of Northumberland is not something that’s mentioned in any of the leaflets I checked at the castle. It’s certainly not there because it’s easy to get to because Keilder is in the middle of a large moor crossed by single track roads then large forests crossed by slow winding b-roads.

It’s beautiful but it’s the kind of beauty that demands patience – and an ability to ignore the tractor blocking the way in front of you.

We drove down on Friday and registered on Friday night, though you can register before the race too. We stayed in the town of Bellingham, which was on 30 minutes from the start, though an early start of 5:40 was needed as the race started at 7am.

Normally, bike races start early to avoid traffic – so I wasn’t sure why a race with no traffic needed to start so early. But, I also thought I could use a road bike, and I wasn’t any better at predicting timings.

“Maybe six hours?” I said to Iain.

Nowhere close.

Race day had ideal weather. Sunny-ish. Not too warm. A very light breeze and, as it had been dry all week, the trail was dusty rather than muddy.

It was cold to start but nothing that an emergency use of the Glasgow Tri Club buff couldn’t fix, after I realised that I’d forgotten to bring gloves.

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Did I tell you how well prepared I was for this race…?

The race started in waves of around 20-25 bikes with a sharp drop from the castle then straight into the forest. The first couple of miles were… okayish. A steady climb. A dirt track then…

Ouch!

The first descent.

Crickey!

Another stone.

Blimey!

And another.

Jings!

And another.

And I’d only gone one metre.

100 metres of a descent later and I feel like Godzilla has kicked me in the baws then grabbed my arms, shaken me about, and punched me in the back.

And only another 78 miles to go.

It was horrendous. Every bump, stone, rock and pepple went straight through my bike and into me. I had to pull on my brakes through any descent just to keep some control.

I was going slower downhill than I was going uphill.

It was HORRIBLE.

And I knew then that my six hour estimate was completely wrong.

The first hour followed a pattern of grinding up a hill, with slate and pebbles sliding away beneath my wheels, to trying to go down hills as slowly as possible so as not to go over my handlebars or become an involuntary eunuch.

I hated every minute of it.

And, to make things worse, Iain was on a mountain bike and making the whole thing look easy as, every hill, he was picked up by Godzilla and given a soothing massage through the magic of suspension and fat tyres.

Not that I didn’t have the right tyres. The organisers had recommended 33 inch tyres as a minimum and that’s what I had. But I needed more than the minimum, I needed big knobbly tyres and shock absorbers. Instead I got BATTERED.

The route itself was spectacular with the scenery changing every 10 miles as you go through forest, moors, farmland, dirt track, walking trails and, thankfully, blessedly, a five mile stretch of smooth, smooth tarmac.

There’s even a river crossing.

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But it was tough and my lack of a ‘granny gear’ meant every hill was a challenge and my lack of springs in my bum meant I’ll never sit down again.

After eight hours we finally got back to Keilder castle. I had to:

  • Stop once to reattach my back wheel after all the shaking shaked it loose from the frame!
  • Stop twice to stop my nose bleeding after all the shaking  shaked it loose from my brain!
  • And stop umpteen times to just stop shaking!

I’m glad I took part. I now know what it’s like to race a gravel race and to race off-road but I don’t think I’ll be signing up for another anytime soon. Not without a mountain bike – and not without a doctor’s note that I can still father children.

Oh, my poor baws!

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Trossachs 10K (Andrew)

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Processed with Snapseed.

Every race needs a starter. If you don’t have a starter then you don’t have a race, you just have a lot people in lyrca standing politely and looking at each other to see if anyone else is going to move first. That’s not a race, that’s a queue.

You need a starter. Someone to fire the pistol, sound the horn, drop the flag, or fire a smoke cannon and let off a hundred fireworks (Long Course Weekend, I’m looking at you and your extravagant start!).

The Trossachs 10K however did things a litle different. It was started by a local chef from the Forth Inn.

“Good luck,” he said, dressed in chef’s whites and still wearing his apron like he’d just wandered out of his kitchen, which he had, because the kitchen was only 20 metres from the start line.

“Why is the chef starting the race?” I asked Iain.

We couldn’t figure it out. He didn’t mention a running club, so we assume he wasn’t one of the organisers, he didn’t mention a charity, so he wasn’t one of the beneficiaries, and he didn’t plug his restaurant, so he wasn’t even looking for publicity.

We can only assume that there was a misunderstanding. Someone must have said they needed a starter and someone else thought they’d best get a chef because, if there’s one thing chefs know, then it’s starters…

It’s apt that the race was started by a chef as the only reason we were racing the Trossachs 10K was that there was a cracking butchers in town and we fancied a run then lunch from the butchers (sausage roll and a macaroni pie for me, delicious).

The race itself is run through the Queen Elizabeth forest and is mostly on trail paths. It’s a great route with some ups and downs through the forest. It was raining but not too heavily to make it uncomfortable to be out running.

I ran round with Iain, we weren’t competing against each other or looking for a time, but, at the end, I felt comfortable and sprinted the final few hundred metres. Sadly, the chef wasn’t at the finish, but, you know, no one finishes with a starter.

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Tough Guy (Iain)

I’m a tough guy!

It’s true. I can prove it.

A) I’ve been in a fist fight. It was against Andrew, and we were aged five, but it still counts.

B) I’ve crashed my car and survived…It was at low speed and entirely my own fault and some people might say it wasn’t a crash, it was a poorly executed three point turn, but it still counts.

C) A man once said “Iain, you are a Tough Guy”.

First staged in 1987, the Tough Guy Challenge is held on a  farm near Wolverhampton. It has been widely described as “the toughest race in the world”, with up to one-third of the starters failing to finish in a typical year.

I did the event in 2006. Four of us came down from Scotland for it. The night before the race we stayed in a barn on the farm. The barn smelled of horses and horse shit. The hay was very comfy to sleep on but it was tricky to find a patch that a horse hadn’t used…

The race starts with a 10K run over farmland. At various points we were made to run up and down small hills. The aim is to spread the field of participants out so that there’s plenty of space once the obstacles start.

The first obstacle was bits of string hanging from a frame. Next to the frame a sign said: “Electrified!” I took one look at the string, one look at the sign and immediately ignored the warning and walked into the string. I woke up 2 seconds later. My head hurt and I wondered why I was lying in a field staring at string. The electric shock had been strong! It felt like I’d been punched by Mike Tyson. I crawled under the string.

The next obstacle was a muddy body of water. I started to go round it. A man shouted “No! In it!” I’d rather not. It looked cold and was full of mud and who know what else. I jumped in. It was disgusting. I went in as myself and emerged as Swamp Man. Why am I doing this stupid race?

After that was a net. At last, something straightforward. Oh no. I notice the flames above the net. Great. If I don’t drown then I get burnt alive. I started crawling under the net. I was now faced with a much more horrific site. The man in front of me was crawling along wearing nothing other than a g string! His big sweat mud encased arse swaying in front of my face. I hope he doesn’t stop suddenly.

The race continued in this vein for nearly three hours. I wish I could say I enjoyed it but I struggled to see the point in it. I finished first amongst my friends and when I did so I heard a man say “Iain, you are a tough guy!”

But I wasn’t the toughest guy. My mate collapsed half way round. He was brought round in the ambulance. They asked him how he felt. He replied “I feel like continuing” He got up and finished the race. That’s tough!

Today I saw an advert on on Facebook – this year’s event is going to be the last one ever.

Will I do it again? No – I’m a tough guy, not a stupid guy!

Norseman Bike (Andrew)

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“Enjoy it”.

The bike leg of Norseman is 112 miles inland from the pier at Eidfjord to the town of Austbygde. It starts with a 1,250m climb to Dyranut, a long stretch along a high plateau, descends back down before the second half hits you with four increasingly longer and harder hills before a 15 mile descent to T2.

The weather forecast all week had been for a north westerly tailwind and for conditions to be mostly dry. That changed on Friday night. It was going to rain for most of the morning and afternoon. I’d brought waterproof cycling shorts, shoes and jacket with me so wore those straight from transition, even though it was dry when I changed. I thought it would be enough, I was wrong.

The bike leg start with a few miles along a flat road from Eidfjord before the climbing starts. The cliff face rises on either side, we follow the old road around the edge of the rock face, dart through tunnels lit by candles, and it feels like we’ve travelled back in time. We’ve left the modern world behind. The road is pitted, but potholes easy to avoid, the drops are steep and tumble down like the waterfalls that scour the sides. I settle into an easy rhythm in my lowest gear and largely keep pace with the rides around me. Occasionally, I even overtake riders on TT bikes standing on the pedals, while I sit down and pass them on the left.

The views are stunning. Wisps of clouds hug the tops of cliff like triumphant climbers about to summit, looking down I can see glimpses of other riders, brightly coloured ants against the dark grey cliff roads, and I keep repeating in my head:

“Enjoy this.”

Because what else is there to do? If I cannot look round and feel that this is the only place I want to be today, that these sights are glimpses of landscape that I’m privileged to see and to be part of.

“Enjoy this.”

The climb consists of two distinct sections. The first strikes through the mountain, climbing through a cleft in the rock like the remants of a giant’s axe strike, the second is a longer climb towards the summit, through moorland and patches of snow along the sides of the road. It’s in the second section that it starts to rain. And rain.

I don’t mind the rain at first. I’m prepared, I have my waterproofs and I’ve used them before in bad conditions so know they’ll be okay. But then the clouds lower. Visibility drops and now it’s not only raining I can only see 50 – 100 metres at a time. This is why we wear a high-viz vest and use lights for the full route. I’m grateful for them. Not for me, but to see others, that I’m not alone.

The next few hours are an increasing struggle. The climb goes further than the profile suggests. Long shallow climbs where, even with a tailwind, progress is slower that I’d hoped. TT bike shoot by. I can’t keep up, nor do I try. I went for a climbing bike and comfort, not speed.

Spots that I remembered from driving across the plateau are rendered indistinct by the clouds. A lake with two black houses on the shore. Three turf houses at the side of the road. It’s always too late when I spot them. But still I tell myself to smile. I’m happy. But wet.

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The support car can’t join you on the climb, I see them in a traffic jam going down the mountain as I climbed up, the single road meaning there’s no place to stop. I’ve brought enough food for two and half hours, eating every thirty minutes. My standard ‘meals’ of ZipVit uncoated orange bars and banana gels. But after two and half hours I’ve yet to see Iain.

I thought I saw him at one point. A black Hyundai estate with 91 – my number – on a sticker on the back. He was down a short lane and trying to reverse the car. I’d shot passed him before I could stop. I thought if it was him, that he was reversing because he’d seen me and was going to follow. I was wrong.

It was another hour before I saw him. Every time a car passed I would hope it was him. After 30 minutes I started to worry. I wondered if he’d had a puncture or, worse, an accident. Every black car that passed was met with a searching look of its back window. 201. 15. 134. Not 91.

I was relieved when I finally saw him. I was soaked through and had run out of food. He pulled in a couple of hundred metres ahead of me. “I’ve got you pancakes,” he said.

By this point, I’d been thinking of quitting. I was starting to shake with hypothermia. I was losing the feeling in my hands. The rain was bouncing off the road and I wasn’t sure if I could carry on for another five hours like this.

“Put this on,” Iain said as I stripped off my hi-viz jersey, waterproof jacket and cycling jersey while sheltering under the open boot of the car.

He gave me a new base layer, my thicker cycling jersey (a Castelli Gabba), a fleece, a Goretex jacket and full length waterproof trousers. I thought he wanted to keep warm while we’d stopped. I didn’t realise that I was going to wear this for the next 60 miles.

“I’ll go to the next town,” I said. The warm clothes having done their job in persuading me to carry on.

“Just keep this on,” Iain said. And I did. I got back on my bike and pedelled off wearing more gear than I would I was climbing a mountain.

But it worked. I warmed up. I stopped shaking. The weather was still awful but as I descended in Greillo it became warmer as I left the plateau.

In town I met Iain again. “I’ll get to the end,” I said while thinking “Enjoy this, you won’t be doing it again.”

The second half of the course is a lot different to the first. It’s feels more part of civilisation, you can see towns, wider roads, and more road signs for evidence of other people.

There are four climbs in this section, nothing too tough or too long but each steady. The final climb is the longest, taking you up to and across a damn. It’s here that a Norwegian woman stands on the porch of a remote house and shouts “Well done, Andrew, keep going!”It takes me a few minutes to work out she must be following Norseman on the website. It’s also here where the support of other teams becomes invaluable. I’m going the same pace as a few other riders so I not only pass Iain every 40 minutes or so I’m also passing other support crews who also shout encouragement.

By now I’ve decided I’ll finish at T2. My temperature is screwy, I’m not sure of whether I should be running after hypothermia and the final climb up Zombie Hill is looking increasingly beyond me. I make the decision to be sensible and  finish while I have Iain as support and not to keep going when I’ll be running for at least 13 miles without support as Iain cannot park on the first half of the course (though it looked like many do!).

The final descent for 15 miles, through thick forest, small villages of colourful chalet houses, and, even better, it’s also the first time it’s dry. The sun peeks out, though not for long, and I’m hitting 35 miles an hour on the sharp descent and 25 mph on the flats. It’s too fast, too late though. I’m still dressed like Ranulph Fiennes.

At T2 I tell the timekeeper that I’m done. There is not a single doubt in my head that I’m doing the right thing. (Though a week later as I write this I think “maybe, just maybe I should have gone on” – but I know that’s a daft thought, I wouldn’t have finished).

After 112 miles, my legs feel okay, I still feel strong(ish) but the desire to keep going has been been washed out by the cold and the rain. The thought of running thought that again is more than I take. I’m done. But I loved it. Every cold, wet, miserable minute of it.

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Norseman – Part 3

“How’s the legs?”

“Sore” replied Andrew.

He’s lying in bed in rjukan. A nice wee town at the base of “Zombie Hill.” The famed section of Norseman where runners switch from running on the flat to climbing  Mt. Gaustatoppe.

I’m feeling fit so I’ve decided to take the bike out and head up the mountain. The climb is hard but its more a mental thing than anything else. It doesn’t have many hairpins so each section feels like a long slog.

On the road people have painted zombies or inspirational words. Its easy to tell the UK supporters as they’ve painted the wrong side of the road!

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I stop once I get to the Furnicular railway that takes tourists to the stop. I notice its open and running so I head back down hoping to convince Andrew that we should go the top. It feels like the logical conclusion to our trip should be on top of the mountain!

Thankfully he’s up for it and even more thankfully he’s done all the packing!

Th13906646_10154314344108162_7927054594518622418_ne funicular is great. Its split into two trains. One that takes us into the mountain and then another that takes us to the top. We share a cabin with an older couple.

From the exit its just a few hundred metres to the Norseman hut. Its great to see the finish line even if its 24 hours later!

We take some pics and record a video of Andrew crossing the finish line.

We then pop into the hut to buy waffles. All races should have waffles at the finish!

On the way back down the same couple are in our train carraige. The man says “Not much to see, was there?”

Not really but if we hadn’t gone up we’d always have regreted it!

The aim of the trip was to enjoy the adventure. We had an adventure and we enjoyed it. What more to life is there than that? 🙂

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Norseman – Part 2 (Iain)

If 3 am is an ungodly time to get up, getting up at 2.30 am is even worse.

Today was the day. It was now or never. Which is a strange expression. It should actually be “It was now or never or…in a minute! Cant’t you see I’m busy. I’ll get to it when I can!”

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We left the B&B quickly and headed to Eidfjord. There’s plenty of parking spaces near the ferry but Andrew refused to use them. He was worried that the police would turn up and fine us. Its 3 am. I think the police have got better things to do than check anyone is parking illegally.

We park at the the school. On the walk to the ferry I point out to Andrew all the Cars parked in the spaces he said not to use.

The port is busy. A lot of athletes and supporters are here. I look at the ferry and notice it has a TV lounge! And comfy chairs! And its showing the Olympics! Extreme Triathalon? My Arse!

On the way into transition Andrew has to show that his bike’s front and back lights work and that he has a reflective jacket.

The volunteer checks his jacket and says its not reflective. It is very yellow but its not reflective! Andrew blames it on buying a cheap one from Decathalon. Idiot!

Luckily the volunteer had a spare so he gave that to Andrew. The winner has a black T-shirt but I bet he doesn’t have a Norseman branded reflective vest.

I wish Andrew luck and he heads onto the ferry.

I decide to drive down the coast to watch the start. Surprisingly no-one else had thought of this so I was on my own watching the start. I can’t imagine what people did in town. It must be pretty dull waiting for the swimmers to come back.

13873048_10153645915211196_6084655913261949439_nAfter they jumped in I headed back to town. I stopped at a pier near the yellow buoy and watched the race leaders zoom past. My watch said 50 minutes so it seemed like they were slow or the race had started late. I later found out this years swim times were slow due to the tide.

I got back to the pier in enough time to watch Andrew come out. I showed him over to the transition point and helped him get changed. About half the swimmer were still in the water so his swim time was pretty good.

I sent him off and said I’d see him in a couple of hours time at the top of the hill.

I notice a man at the pier has made fresh pancakes. I buy four so that Andrew will have a treat at the top of the hill. I then eat two. Oh well. Two is still a treat!

I then headed back to the B & B to get some breakfast. Mmm waffles. Its a hard life being a support team!

I’ve lost Andrew.

I saw him a minute ago. I passed him in the car. I gave him a wave and the parked at the next available parking spot. I’ve now waited 20 minutes and he’s not gone past!

I’m on the plateua. Due to thick mist visibility is 100m and it’s freezing cold. I wouldn’t like to be in a car in these conditions, let alone on a bike.

I decide something has gone wrong. He’s gone past and I didn’t notice or something’s happened before he got here.

I decide to head back down the road. I travel for 10 minutes and don’t spot him!

Its now colder and wetter and I imagine he will be wondering where I’ve gone.

I race along the road. After 10 minutes I still haven’t spotted him.

After 20 minutes, I’m worried. Something must have gone wrong.

After 30 minutes I spot a very cold and wet looking cyclist ahead. Its Andrew!

I pass and wave and this time park where he can see me.

It turns out he had cycled past me. My parking spot was in an awkward place. He assumed it wasn’t my car. I must have missed him as I was too busy concentrating on not crashing the car as I maneuvered into the space!

I thought he’d be angry so I pull out my trump card – the pancakes!

I think quickly and then ask him.

“Do you want a Twix?”

Andrew is standing in front of me. He’s shaking due to the cold. I offer him the sweet. He’s still cold and shaking but at least he gets chocolate biscuit snack.

He says he’s struggling to bike due to the cold. The weather is bad and it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up.

Luckily I’d packed Goretex trousers, thick fleece top and a jacket. He takes off his wet clothes and replaces them with the new ones. He now looks ready…to climb Everest!

At least he’ll be dry and warm even if he’s not going to be very aerodynamic.

He says he’ll cycle to the next town before deciding whether to carry on.

I hope he keeps going. It would be a shame to finish at this point.

We pass the next town and come off the plateau. That section is supposed to be fast but due to the weather he never got up to a good speed.

Thankfully he now feels warmer and decides to continue.

13886465_10153645913911196_8173376943594334046_nThe next half of the race has four climbs. They are all manageable. There’s a climb of 400m near Glasgow called the Crow Road. So we split each section into how many Crow Roads it is. As in, this next climb is 1.5 crow roads. The one after is 2x Crow Road etc It helps to put each bit into perspective.

For the next 50 miles we get into a pattern of he bikes and I drive a short distance up the road. He then either passes me or pulls in and gets food. It seems to work well.

At the top of the last climb support has to end. Its all downhill now so I leave him to it and head to Transition 2. There’s not many folk here. Most of the competitors have already been through. I go for a walk and watch a couple posing for wedding photos.

Andrew eventually arrives. I expect him to call it a day. He’s been out on the bike for 8 hours+ and is pretty knackered!

bike

He decides to quit. He doesn’t have the energy to run over  a speed bump let alone a huge hill.

We pack up and head off. As we drive the route towards our accommodation we see the athletes struggling along the road. No part of either of us thinks we wish we’d continued.

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