Leading up to any event, whether it’s one or one hundred miles, whether it’s a run or bike ride or whatever your sport is – there will always be niggles and doubts – have I trained enough; have I done enough miles; have I done enough hills; should I have a day off; should I squeeze in one more training session; should I have had that pint of cider last night; etc etc. Last weekend I got in a 40 and 45 mile bike ride – had hoped to do more on the Saturday but tired legs from the previous days run and a strong headwind I decided to cut things short – on the Sunday I was faring not bad but not far from home Bertie decided he’d had enough! And whether I wanted to or not there was going to be no mid week cycling this week!
Dr Nige was away for the weekend but I messaged to see if he could diagnose the problem and could he fix it? Message went along lines of “chain looks fine; gears working fine but as soon as I stop pedalling chain feels as if it is jumping all over the place as if it’s going to come off”. Message back – “aye – I can probably fix it” Dr Nige didn’t get home until after 11pm on Monday night – a quick look at bike diagnosed a “rear freehub failure” – plan: order one online asap so that bike can be fixed before I head North on Thursday but plan failed – there does not seem to be any stock except in Germany and they won’t arrive in time – plan 2: take bike to local bike shop who confirm diagnosis but do not have a spare part and also can not get one in time – plan 3: contact the bike shop in Dingwall where I will be spending the weekend – they are almost certain that they have the right part but someone has already opened the packet and they can’t be 100% sure until they see the bike – Bertie is pushed to the train station on Thursday night and we take the 3 trains from Stirling to Dingwall and we had a high speed run between platforms at Inverness so that we could make our connection – Friday morning bike is dropped off at Dryburgh Cyles in Dingwall – a phonecall mid afternoon confirrms that Bertie is all fixed and ready to go having had the rear freehub replaced and a new derailleur fitted – not able to collect Bertie until Saturday morning but a wee bike ride confirms that he is all ready for the Loch Ness Etape the following day (and hoping that I am as well).
6.35am see’s me and a now fixed Bertie at the start line of the Loch Ness Etape – no expectations of time – I find it impossible to judge but reckon I should make it ok. The first 33 miles lure you into a false sense of security – 33 miles of gently undulating terrain with beautiful scenery – the scenery continues but we hit the King of the Mountain section – I was expecting hills but not sure when or how much – sometimes it better not to know. Oh my word the first one is a beast – a fair number of folks are having to push there bikes – I’m on a mission I’m determined that I won’t be one of the them – puff, puff, f..k, puff, puff, shit – I wasn’t the only one swearing under their breath on the way up – it was tough keeping the momentum; trying to pass the slower cyclists and those pushing their steeds and at the same time trying not to get in the way of the faster riders – me and Bertie made it and relax on the other side but in quick succession came hills 2 and 3 – neither as long or as steep but still tough on legs that haven’t had time to recover – but a welcoming sound as the Piper plays to let us know we have conquered the King of the Mountain section – easier cycling now but I’m on a mission – still another 20 miles to go but I’m determined to maintain my pace and push myself on, barely stopping to eat or drink – I’m one of the few not on a road bike and I get a few (friendly) comments about my steed and why I’ve got a pannier – I had meant to leave the pannier behind but paranoia about not having enough food or extra layers I opted to take it – I should have left it behind. Another pull about 10 miles before the homeward stretch and finish line and a well desreved (I think) “Harry Gow Dream Ring” doughnut – boy that went down well.
A big thank you to Team Support (aka Mum and Dad) for looking after me and driving me between Dingwall and Inverness and a huge thanks to Dryburgh Cycles for fixing Bertie at very late notice.
“Freehub” – the thingy in the middle of your back wheel that stops your chain spinning round – I now know a little more about bike maintenance!