The last few weeks have seen a bit of an erosion of enthusiasm for exercise-related activities. Turbo sessions have proved to be the genital-numbing joy-fests that I remember from last winter and it has only been the weekly swim-session and 5k Parkrun that have stopped me morphing into something resembling SuBo.
The spectre of the Glentress Duathlon has been looming large since it was foolishly entered in a fit of madness. 40Something & I even took the rather professional approach of scoping out the route during a mid-week foray to Glentress a couple of weeks ago. Despite getting hopelessly lost on the last part of the bike course, our verdict was that it was not too technical but some of the uphill singletrack slogs could end up rather processional and that any foot-down action would be punished by an inability to remount on such a steep gradient and a long, slow walk to the summit. We foolishly omitted to scope out the run course on the same day. Had we done this, we could have awarded ourselves an extra few hours in bed yesterday as we would surely have greeted its relentless gradients with a hearty “feck that” and willingly forgone the entry fee.
The build-up to the race was somewhat inauspicious. Aware that my front wheel had been exhibiting a wobble recently, I convinced myself that the tubeless tyre had not been seated correctly and all that was required was to re-mount it. Wrong! As I brought the wheel into the warmth of the kitchen to begin wrestling the tyre from the rim I saw a single spoke which had freed itself from the nipple. With a sense of glee I said to myself, “Excellent. Ball on slates. Can’t start the race.” Then the engineer and serial bike-tinkerer in me took over. A similar spoke-busting incident had occurred with my rear wheel a couple of seasons ago. Having been informed by my LBS that my nipples were too soft, they duly replaced them. Shortly after that, the rear hub shat itself & I have been using a cheapo Shimano spare rear wheel ever since. Realising that there was a redundant rim full of shiny new nipples, I set about replacing the duff one on the front wheel. So far so good. However, any attempt to true the wheel by turning any of the original nipples resulted in their disintegration. Long story short; 2 hours later all the nipples had been replaced & the wheel was a true as my modest skills would allow.
The day of the race dawned with fair weather and reasonable forecast. However as 40Something, Don-for-a-Day Chris & I drove through Auchendinny & Leadburn, the heavens opened and the nearer we got to Peebles, the more the rain turned to sleet. We registered in the rain, got changed in the rain & cycled reluctantly to the start line in the rain. A panicking Chris asked for the loan of a multi-tool minutes before the start to fix a dodgy cleat. Given that the starter’s whistle was about to blow, I threw it too him & shouted “keep it”. Yup, you guessed it – 2 words I would regret later!
As expected, the whippets were smartly out of the traps with the mere mortals slogging up the rear. The usual start line shenanigans ensued as riders ahead failed to clip in and riders behind mowed into the back of them – always nice to have a barrage of swearing at the start of a race. Given that we had scoped out the course before, the bike route held little in the way of surprises. One grassy downhill section had become a death slide which caught me out, resulting in a fairly benign looking low-side during which I landed on my right elbow, which dug into my ribs (a style of landing that I unfortunately have previous & painful experience of.) One section of quagmire at the Shieldgreen Centre proved unrideable and as I marched the bike up I decided to select an easier gear in order to remount. I leaned over and spun the cranks & as I pushed the gear lever I felt the cable pull through the clamp at the rear derailleur. Remember the multi-tool? So I triple-speeded the remainder of the course although the gradients meant that this wasn’t the hardship that it could have been on earlier parts of the course. The final section of the bike course proved much better than the hopeless wrong-turning that 40Something & I had taken some weeks previously and after a short jaunt on the fire road past the skills loop, we were into transition and feeling like the pros as the volunteers took bikes from us as we dismounted.
The first 2k of the run was uphill. Seriously uphill. Run, jog, shuffle, walk, uphill. As I approached the summit of the first climb, the lead whippet was barrelling down it on his way to the finish. A left turn just at the top of the Spooky Wood climb saw us ascending again on twisty walkers paths, reaching the exposed summit just as the snow fell. (Given that I have no pictures of this section or the snow, you will have to make do with this image to give you a flavour of the conditions!). Veering into a dark forest section we then had to tackle the sort of gradient that is normally the reserve of goats and daft tourists who end up having to be rescued by helicopters. On the outward section of the course it was downhill and as I minced my way down all I could think was, this will hurt on the way back. And so it proved, but oddly I was now beginning to get into some sort of rhythm, realising that I was more than halfway through and that the relative reward of the downhill finish was approaching. An inelegant slapping of feet marked that start of the last downhill before a final section of walkers’ path and as much of a sprint finish as the legs & lungs would allow. My rib-smacking experience meant that the run was accompanied by a nice double-sided stitch and shortly after the finish, as the adrenaline subsided, the rib pain hit fairly hard.
The verdict on the day’s activities ranged from miserable to brutal to horrendous, but the one positive from everyone was, “I’m glad I did it.” The ribs are currently sore – I live in fear of a sneeze, but I’m sure they are just bruised. The lesson learned was that off-road running on paths with steep gradients is as different to running on the road as mountain biking is to road riding. Note to self – if you enter another of these, do some specific off-road running. Second note to self – don’t enter another of these!
Brought to you by Soap On A Rope by Chickenfoot