Archive for June, 2011

“We suffer, so they don’t” is a most appropriate slogan. It is the slogan of Action Medical Research for their Ride 100 series of bike rides.

I stayed the night at my in-laws who are about half a mile away from Stirling High School where the ride started and finished. I cycled from Alva to Stirling on Saturday evening. The alarm woke me at 6 am. After three chocolate weetabix, a banana and coffee I was ready to head out. I managed to leave the house without waking anyone.

It was a dreich day. Almost completely over cast with some light refreshing rain for much of the route. This was far more preferable to beating sun.

Registration was from 6:45 and I was there from around this time. I wasted no time registering, getting my bike number card with timing chip and getting to the start. As a result I was in the very first group to start.

Some of my fellow riders at the start.

As we headed towards King’s Park there was a small amount of confusion. We met a group who were coming up from the car park at Viewforth and were heading towards the school to register. The two groups mingled briefly and there was almost a collision as one group tried to turn left towards the school and another carried straight on.

Down to the A811 we went and we enjoyed a lovely flat stretch all the way to Kippen. A small group got out front and I joined a team of poursuivants behind them. They dropped me after about 7 or 8 miles and I managed to team up with a rider who seemed to be happy going at the same pace as me. We stuck together until Aberfoyle.

10 miles in and we turned right at the Kippen roundabout towards Thornhill. This road is a joy to ride. It’s flat and smooth. As we approached Thornhill we enjoyed our first climb. It’s a fairly easy one. After Thornhill we turned left onto the A873 towards Aberfoyle. This is a fairly rough bit of road and there was plenty of swerving around potholes and trying to find the smoothest sections in which to ride.

At one point along here there was a small climb. In order to conserve momentum I decided to stand off the saddle and try to power up it. This caused a nasty twinge in my right calf so I sat back down and shifted down a couple of gears.

Through Ruskie and Blairhoyle we then turned right onto the A81 towards Callander. This was the first categorised climb of the day. From 171ft to 561ft over 2.12 miles this is a category 5 climb. The easiest categorised climb. This route takes you past Loch Rusky.

The following descent is really fast. I managed to hit 37mph heading down towards Callander. McLaren High School was supposed to be the first feed stop but they had set up on a grass verge across the road without removing the signs telling you to turn into the School. After a banana and two mini flap jacks it was back on the road.

Into Callander and out to Kilmahog then onto the A821 towards Brig o’ Turk. This is a great road to cycle. It undulates just enough to power up the climbs and coast down the descents, plus the views across Loch Venechar and Loch Achray are beautiful.

Coming around Loch Achray we come to the start of the Duke’s Pass. This is a category 4 climb and is much easier in this direction than coming from Aberfoyle (which is category 3). We were joined on this climb by an ambulance which seemed to hover around us like a vulture. A screaming fast descent from the top brings us into Aberfoyle.

Through Aberfoyle towards the A81 we then came to the Rob Roy hotel. This was our lunch stop. It felt a bit odd having lunch at 9:30 but that did not stop me filling up on pasta, potato salad, cheese, tuna, apple, soup and a cup of tea. This was 38 miles into the ride. At 2.5 hours including a short break at the previous feed stop I was pleased with my time so far.

Those lovely Recyke-a-bike chaps were on hand for basic maintenance at Aberfoyle.
Recyke-a-bike at Aberfoyle

Stopped at Rob Roy Hotel, Aberfoyle.
Lunch stop, Aberfoyle.

Next it was down the A81. This is not a nice piece of road. It feels like you are going slightly downhill but really having to work at it. Also the surface is really rough. I found a smooth stretch towards the middle of the road but had to move off it to allow cars to overtake.

At Ballat Crossroads by Balfron Station we turned left onto the A811. By this point I was being overtaken a fair bit. My strategy was to allow a group of riders to overtake me then draft them for a bit before allowing them to drop me. I managed to do this about three times along this stretch. The A811 was a welcome relief after that nasty bit of A81.

We rode through Buchlyvie. Just before Arnprior was the halfway point. I deliberately stopped to enjoy a Snickers at this point. This was my first unscheduled stop.

Approaching the Kippen roundabout again it was temptation time. I was tired and really tempted to carry straight on and do the 100km instead of 100 miles. Only 10 miles on the flat would have taken me back into Stirling but I resisted. I spotted a rider in front go that way and as I climbed into Kippen saw another turn back. I guess he had changed his mind about 100 miles. But I decided it was better to try and fail than not to try at all. Into Kippen I went.

Outside a coffee shop there was a crowd applauding and cheering us on. I bowed and thanked them for their support which amused them.

The B822 between Kippen and Fintry is horrible. It’s a really long climb and I had to stop for breath a few times going up. After reaching the top and descending I suffered oxygen deprivation and felt like I was going to black out. Another stop for air was needed before continuing into Fintry.

We turned right onto the B818 towards Ballikinrain Castle. This is another rough road which climbs more than it descends. I was starting to regret choosing 100 miles at this point but then I remembered Isaiah 40:31. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They will rise on wings as eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah does not mention cycling but that did not matter. With a freshness and a lifted spirit I carried on to Killearn, turning left onto the A875 just before.

Just when I thought I had seen enough of the A81 we turned left onto it just after Killearn. This took us down to Dumgoyne. By the Glengoyne distillery was a most welcome sight. The third and final feed stop.

Feed stop at Glengoyne Distillery
The gentleman in the tent is filling plastic cups with either peanuts or jelly beans and jelly babies.

I had a packet of crisps, cup of jelly beans and jelly babies, banana and a small cupcake. I also refilled my water bag and this time got a couple of scoops of energy drink powder. This was my last rest stop. I did not stop to rest after this, not even an unscheduled rest.

Just as I was about to leave the feed station the rain started in earnest. I carried on towards Strathblane then turned left onto the A891 towards Campsie Glen. By this time the rain was heavier than I would have liked. As I passed Campsie Glen I saw an ominous sight to the left. Crow Road. There were already a few riders on the road and you can see just how high it climbs.

Into Lennoxtown and a left onto the B822 and I was on Crow Road. This is a category 3 climb, the toughest on the route. It climbs 800ft over 3.5 miles. At this point I had done 80 miles. Throwing this hill at us after this distance is sadistic. After starting the hill I did something I had not yet done. I got off the bike and walked part of the hill. It’s not a particularly steep hill, but is a long climb to a high altitude and after 80 miles is just not a fun climb. About two thirds of the way up I started cycling and got a burning sensation in my left thigh. As I was walking up a motorcycle marshal passed and asked if I needed assistance. I politely declined.

While it is a tough hill the views make it worthwhile. Before the road turns into the Campsies you can see right over Lennoxtown including Lennox Castle. Once around the first corner there is a lovely waterfall strewn burn that flows alongside the road. After the top it’s a fabulous descent. The motorcycle marshal watched in amusement as I screamed “yahoooo” while flying past her.

But it’s not over yet. There is one more categorised climb. At the bottom of the hill we turned right onto the B818 towards the Carron Reservoir and onto the last climb. At this point tempers were getting frayed. I had not heard any bad language up until this point but a few rude words were heard regarding this climb and the distance to the finish. I waved to those fishing on the reservoir.

According to the map it is all downhill from here, but there are still a couple of steep climbs. At Carron Bridge we turned left onto New Line Road. The sign said “Stirling 8”. The short climb after this turn is punishing at this point on the route. Here I saw something I had not seen all day. My shadow. The sun just managed to peek though the clouds. By this point I was glimpsing well known landmarks between the trees. I whooped with delight when I saw Strude Mill in my home village of Alva from away in the distance. The Wallace Monument came into view and I knew I was nearly there.

I was getting really excited as I crossed the M9 motorway and could see Whins of Milton. Just before turning onto Glasgow Road I passed the marshals again and thanked them for their support.

A left onto Glasgow Road, left at the Borestone Roundabout and into St. Ninians where I got stopped by the traffic lights just before the end. Then left towards the school where a beep greeted me as I rode over the timing mat. This was around 4pm.

I nice lady greeted me with a goody bag and a pair of snips with which to remove my bike number/timing chip.
I then cycled the half mile back to my in-laws house where my wife and children were waiting with cards and gifts for Father’s day.

After an hour’s rest I put the bike on the back of the car and drove home to Alva. Feeling the need for a protein and carbohydrate fix the Great British fish and chips came to my rescue.

I started the route at 7am and finished at 4pm, so that’s 9 hours out on the road. My odometer says I was cycling for 7.5 hours (the clock only ticks when the wheel is moving) so I must have rested during the route for a total of 1.5 hours. I have since discovered that 137 riders did 100K and 366 did 100 miles. I came in 341 out of 365 with a time of 8:56:31.

I managed to raise £282 plus £52.50 gift aid makes £334.50 raised for Action Medical Research.

Here’s the route: