Over the Border

Yesterday I completed the eighth ride in my attempt to complete a Randonnee Round the Year – a 200k ride every calendar month for a year. My original plan had been to ride to my parents’ house for Christmas today (I did this last year and it was a little over 200k), but the forecast wasn’t looking good. Yesterday’s forecast looked better so I decided to do a ride from home, especially as days in December are running out and I didn’t want to cut it fine like I did in October.

As usual there was a westerly wind today; nothing too strong, but enough to have an influence. As a result I planned a route that would mean cycling east to finish. I was mainly on familiar roads. It was a drizzly start as I climbed up to the B6318 (aka the Military Road) which runs parallel to the best bits of Hadrian’s Wall. From there, up the North Tyne valley to Bellingham, and then west to the smooth rolling road that runs up the side of Kielder Water. Traffic was very light, maybe people were getting some last-minute Christmas shopping done.

Kielder Water

Past Kielder the weather was improving, and I took the beautiful remote road that continues north through the forest, and over the Scottish border. From there it was south to Newcastleton for lunch. There’s a café called The Olive Tree I really liked to visit before going vegan, so I stopped there in the hope that there would be something for me. Nothing specifically vegan on the menu, but they were happy to make me some beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, hash browns and (my favourite when in Scotland) tattie scones – it was all well-needed. All got washed-down with a good coffee and a can of coke.

Crossing the border into Scotland

From Newcastleton it was a long ride southwest towards the Solway Firth. The headwind wasn’t too much of a problem and I kept up a reasonable pace. I felt good today, stronger than the previous two 200s I’ve done. I think it was partly to do with the route – I’d picked something I knew I would enjoy and would work well with the wind.

On reaching Ecclefechan (I know!) and then Annan, I started to turn back towards the east. The tailwind was immediately noticeable and I started to sail along, the roads were also flatter at this point. I was feeling a little fatigued when I got to Gretna so stopped and bought some crisps a banana and a coke at the co-op. It was getting dark by this point, so lights were on full. I continued on to Longtown and Brampton and then picked up very familiar roads, following a route I often used to take cycling home when I worked in Brampton. The final 25k involved a bit of climbing – nothing major but after a long day in the saddle it felt like a bit of an effort. Still, I made it home within eight hours which I was pleased with.

Click the map to view my ride on Strava

I was pleased with my pace today; I think a solo 200 at 16.1mph is pretty decent. However, weird as it might sound, I think it was too fast. It’s a vanity thing. I find that the Strava Effect means that I’m always pushing myself to sustain a quick pace, conscious of trying to look impressive. Trouble is, this is a bad strategy for endurance. I don’t think I’m using my energy as efficiently as I could be. It’s all very well for a 200, but for rides of 300, 400 or 600+ I think it needs to be a case of ‘slow and steady completes the audax’. I’ve got some big ambitions for 2019 (more on that in due course!), and if I’m going to achieve my goals I think I need to master the art of riding slowly. We’ll see how that goes…

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