I got up early on Saturday and caught a train to Edinburgh. It was cold. Very cold. There was snow on the ground and there was something rather beautiful about the frozen landscape as the sun started to come up.
This was my 200k ride for February, the tenth of my attempt at a Randonnee Round the Year (a 200k ride each calendar month for a year. I was deliberately getting this done early in the month in case of bad weather later.
The route I had planned was an unusual one for me. I normally try to ride on small back roads (less traffic and generally more scenic). However, for this ride I deliberately chose more major routes, conscious that backroads would be less likely to be gritted and more likely to be icy.
So it ended up being a long straight ride. I took the A702 out of Edinburgh; there was more traffic than I was used to, but it was fine. I followed the road all the way until it met the M74, and at that point picked up the road that runs alongside the motorway.
All was going fine for the first half of the ride. I was well wrapped up, so despite the cold my core temperature was fine. It was once I started to follow the motorway that I noticed my rear tyre was soft. I stopped and pumped it up a bit, but it soon became apparent that I had a slow puncture. The next few hours were very frustrating, with lots of stopping and starting. I reluctantly changed the inner tube, finding a sunny spot beside the side of the road to do so (it was seriously cold in the shade). Having change the tube my brake started rubbing. It took ages to get it sorted – I must have knocked the caliper somehow when putting the wheel back on, and the pads needed lots of fiddling with.
All the starting and stopping had brought my average speed right down, and it was clear I was going to be home later than planned. I hadn’t had a lunch stop, so I stopped at Lockerbie Lorry Park for some beans on toast at about 4pm. Lockerbie Lorry Park is quite a place. It’s open 24 hours, so is a handy calling point for audax cyclists, plus the food is simple and good value. Somewhat bizarrely there is often entertainment – if you turn up on a weekend evening don’t be surprised if it’s Country and Western night, or drunken karaoke.
From Lockerbie it was on to Ecclefechan, Gretna Green, Longtown and then Brampton. I was getting fatigued, and on reflection I think part of it was to do with not drinking enough. This is always a danger when it’s cold – no one wants to drink freezing cold water when the temperatures are sub-zero!
So much of the success of failure of a big ride is psychological. I had told myself that the road from Longtown to Brampton would be easy, mainly downhill. I don’t know why I thought that, because it isn’t. It’s not a difficult road, but after 170k (and expecting it to be downhill) I struggled and my pace dropped.
I stopped in Brampton for some nuts and a coke from the Co-op before the final stretch. Leaving Brampton I got very cold (my fingers in particular) and had to work hard to get my heart rate up and warm again. The water in my bottle had frozen by this point. Whichever direction I come from, the final 20k back home is always hilly, so this felt like a grind.
I didn’t plan the final section of my route very well. I had chosen a stretch of cycle path to avoid a bit of climbing, and of course it was covered in snow. I was on smooth road tyres (not ideal), but apart from one little skid it was just about manageable. It was a similar story riding the final 3k to my village – the road is currently closed to vehicles so hadn’t been gritted. It was a bit sketchy, but I managed.
It was after 9pm by the time I got home. For a 200, this had been hard – energy levels, mechanicals and weather all adding t the challenge. But it was good. I feel like I learn more on rides like this – it means digging deep, finding resilience, learning about my body and learning about my bike. So that’s now ten months in a row of 200k rides – just two more to go.