It was inevitable really. A love affair that started when I was a small boy, flying around Scone and its’ surrounding hills on my Raleigh Racer, couldn’t just stop overnight. Yes, I wanted to play some more golf – it’s in my blood too – but I need the bike as well.
And so it was that I found myself, having been persuaded by my good friend Merv Stanley, on the start line for the King of the Mountains Sportive at Alford yesterday. Of course, I couldn’t just turn up and ride the 100km – my pride wouldn’t let me be a poor imitation of my former bike-self, and so for the past 8 weeks or so I’ve been building up the miles, and the intensity, on the bike.
Doing this has made me realise how much I love riding my bike. It’s a physical feeling that you don’t get from the game of golf – that feeling of knowing that you’ve pushed yourself, that you’ve achieved something hard, that you’ve suffered.
Having also played a few competitive rounds of medal golf, I’ve also realised that I don’t want to play competitive any more. I’d rather go out and play with my son, my brother, with friends. Just not take it too serious. I’m fine with that.
So yesterday. 100km in the Donside hills. Last year it was nothing more than a training ride, in 23c sunshine. I took it in my stride. Having not done any training over the winter it was never going to be the same this year. Plus, 8c, rain and a gusty wind meant it would be a very different day.
I’m pleased to say that I didn’t embarras myself. I’m also pleased that I managed to control my racer instincts at the start and rather than try to go with the fast guys, I settled into my own steady rhythm. I’ve learned over the years from racing that my body takes a good 10 miles or so to warm up, and if I try to go out too hard I’ll be cooked later on. If I pace myself, then I get better and better and will be stronger in the fourth hour of a race than I was in the first. Or so it feels anyway.
As I warmed up, and got into my rhythm, I started to move through the groups. Taking a tow from one, doing my turns, then heading up the road when the pace got a little too easy. By the time we got to Gairnsheil I’d made up a lot of ground. I could see a long line of riders up ahead of me – it was carnage up there, and slowly but surely I made my way up passing lots of fancy carbon on my lovely steel Classico!
I’m still pretty nervous on the descents and visibility was poor up there – we were in the clouds by now – so I descended on the brakes. Not the fastest – I peaked at 65kph – but I made it down. I really hate the 20% drop to Gairnsheil Lodge. From there on in it was pretty steady, again jumping between groups, riding through & off at a good pace.
My “wall” arrived at 82km – on the climb out of Tarland, into a strong gusty headwind. By now I was on my own, so had no-one to shelter behind. I just focused on the guys I could see ahead of me and ground it out. Metronomic in my suffering.
Before I knew it, the Garmin said 95km, and it was a downhill run in to the finish. By now the heavens had opened and the rain was bouncing off the ground, but I didn’t care. I’d loved being back out on the bike, taking part in an event, the camaraderie out on the road, the suffering of the Gairnsheil and Queens View climbs, the feeling in my legs of having worked hard. I felt alive!
And so I’m back on the bike. I don’t plan on actually racing, although I will do some of the Deeside Evening League events – more for fun than anything else. I’ll also play some golf and look forward to that too. I think I’ve finally found my balance…..