Category Archives: birthday

6 days, lost and 9 miles

Last week was my birthday, no big deal by now. Last year I decided I would try to ride my birthday miles each year as soon after the event as I could. This can only get harder though perhaps at some point kilometres may enter the fray. It was a 67 mile target last year, but somehow ended up at 95, so that was a most auspicious start to the whole thing. So last Sunday I set off for the requisite 68 miles. But, alas, twas not to be. Fate had intervened. Prior to this a car had hit me with its wing mirror at a junction. Ooh, and ouch and oh dear – I reckon I’d cracked a rib, as well as putting curves in the back wheel that just shouldn’t be there. Got to 40 miles and realised it just wasn’t going to be on.The ribs were paining me, so discretion became the better part of valour. I wasn’t far from home – 2 to 3 miles later I relaxed in a hot bath. A wee bit disappointed but hopefully there’s tomorrow?

So gradually built up again over the week. Still sore up steeps, but improving, hurrah for endomorphins. By the Saturday it was 6 days later. Terry was up for joining me and the chase was on. Cloudy, but sunshine due later, little wind, route on the Garmin, spirit willing, the few miles up to Terry’s and we were off.

The first 20 miles were fine, steadily climbing up to 550 ft+, with few steep hills to kick in the hurt. Then it all went wrong. I was the navigator, Terry was in front, took a turn right and shot off downhill, whoops that was all wrong.

BDay Ride with Terry

Come back Terry

A mile or so later I caught up & decided to carry on & let the Garmin correct us. Well up this long, steep straight hill we went for about 2 miles, ooch again. Then we started our journey to all over the place. We seemed to be going round about in what seemed like squares, circles, ovals or something. At least we passed some pretty places, with castles and all (not unusual round here).

BDay Ride with Terry

Chrichton Castle

We also passed folk belting around on aero bikes with numbers felt tipped on their arms, learnt later it was a triathlon as we had thought at the time.

Eventually I realised what was wrong (and I pride myself on good navigation). I had set the Garmin to recalculate – big mistake, it seemed to be pulling me home rather than back to my required course, ah well.

So having sorted it all out and done all these strange circuits to nowhere, we sort of caught up with our route by an unintended sprint (though that term is relative) along the busy A7 main road – no’ nice at all, get me off here! So through Heriot and down the old road, and up and down and up an down and  . . . . . At least we knew where we were, though I guessed we had carved a chunk off our intended route with our diversions. Further down the back road, we passed the spot where we were supposed to cross to head back. Nothing, no go, no track, no way, oh deary me!!! The map lied – they had resurrected the Borders Railway and there was no way across.

So we trundled on downhill, back on to the dreaded A7 and back up – another 4 miles we hadn’t meant to do to get opposite where the map told fibs to us.

Now came the hills.

BDay Ride with Terry

A bonny glen

BDay Ride with Terry

Bumpy roads again

BDay Ride with Terry

Spot the white cow sculpture, some house too!

BDay Ride with Terry

An old fortified house, nicely restored

BDay Ride with Terry

Approaching Soutra

By more ups and downs we ascended to over 1,200 feet to the remains of the renowned (in its day) medieval hospital at Sutra Aisle. Stopped for a quick look around then a crazy descent, yippee, and a stop at the cafe for coffees and lunch.

BDay Ride with Terry

Sutra Aisle, with sunshine weakly beckoning

BDay Ride with Terry

Sutra Aisle and a random motorcyclist

There was a lot of downhill back, so gorgeous cruising in the sun, mostly back on home turf, past the caterpillar hedges climbing over the landscape and eventually parting with Terry a few miles from my humble abode. Then – made it! Yippee.

But had I managed the magic mileage? Loaded up the ride stats.

YES!! 77.1 miles, 5:39:49 moving time and 4,869 feet of ascent. So 6 days late but 9 miles over, we must have done some wandering on our diversions. Much to my amazement I’d even managed a few PRs on some of the ascent. So altogether it was a most satisfactory result, followed by a hot bath soak.

Now, next year – where shall I plan to get lost next year?

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The wobbly, wobbly route

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Failure will become a Success

Saturday was fun. The cafe at Gifford closed a few months ago, but is starting to be renovated by a new owner. It was a real cyclist hub too. It will be called the Lanterne Rouge, which might be quite appropriate for me at times (for those who don’t know the association “The Lanterne Rouge“). It won’t open till May as they are totally redoing the place, but as the Gifford road race was on they were giving out coffee & cakes and raising money for the local hospice. The helpers and owner were lovely and the cakes superb. Hey had made a special energy bar/ flap jack which was wonderful. I had thought the racing was over, but when I came up the hill to Gifford, the motorbike cavalcade came down the road towards me, lights blazing, then the leaders shot past, followed by the 2nd group and then the peloton. They did a circuit and came past the cafe. I managed to munch and drink and headed off to the finish  to see then come blasting over the line – great.

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The marshals waiting for the next lap

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The breakaway comes through

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Back together the leader crosses the line

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Tired!!

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The pack comes through

Last year I decided to ride my birthday at least. I was 67 so planned a 67 mile route. One of my cycling buddies chummed me and we had a wonderful, but chilly day biking out to Stirling, getting the train back to Edinburgh and then cycling back home. The 67 miles turned, somehow magically, into 95. So a birthday ride+. Yesterday was another year on. Fortunately I don’t set the birthday ride to be on my birthday as the March weather here is fickle, to say the least.

This year my cracked rib has intervened as well. I’m back on the bike and slowly ramping up the miles again, though sore a wee bit, as it’s only a couple of weeks since the accident (“Only when I laugh” as the old joke goes).

So I cycled up to join the gang for the Sunday ride, ready to push the mileage if I was up to it. The first 35 miles were super, I was in shorts for the 2nd day running (and this is March in Scotland), just 2 layers on top, felt good & had excellent company. I took it relatively easy up the hills so as not to do too much energetic breathing and stopped in one of the towns to meet some folk, one of whom had an amazing looking tri bike. It was much heavier than I thought it would be too.

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Then down from the foothills and a fast cruise along the coast. Just Craig & I now, barrelling along together.

Then I realised that my 68 possible target wasn’t on that day. My chest was grumbling gently at me – there’s always another day sire!

So Craig pottered off, right on his target for the day, while I peeled off, heading for home. But 40+ miles was OK and proved I’m on the way to my birthday ride in the next couple of weeks.

My evening celebration was an a visit to Dunbar to see a lovely Science Festival Light Show projected on to the Town House, with the statue of John Muir (who was born here) being lit up as well, followed by an Italian meal – loverly.

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John Muir as a boy

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(2 days later) A few rides later into the hills & I’m ready for tomorrow. Forecast is good, no winds and not desperately cold. Wish me luck.

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A suspicious looking ‘Heavy’ horse

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It’s mucky in them thare hills!!

It was meant to be 67, the best laid plans . . . . .

Well, I had promised myself I would try to do 67 miles on the bike for my 67th birthday a couple of days ago. The forecast was unpleasant so I decided to go yesterday instead. I had planned an interesting route to Stirling with a lot of cycle path mileage and a train journey back. Then Terry rang me up. He fancied chumming me so that was settled then. Back to the drawing board for a route amendment.

So, early (for me!) start, and off at 7.30 am, temperature rising to the dizzy heights of 1ºC. But, the wind, though slight, was behind. So off up the road to meet Terry and then along the cycle track on the site of the old railway. A bit muddy and slidey in places, but hey life’s an adventure?

The mucky cycle track

The mucky cycle track

Then back on to real roads and a sweep down to and along the Firth of Forth, past Musselburgh Race Course & over the Tyne.

Musselburgh race course

Musselburgh race course

Over the River Esk at Musselburgh

Over the River Esk at Musselburgh

As you’ve probably realised it was a bit grey and murky, but sunshine was on offer later. We then had a short section on the main road, till we got to Joppa and the start of ‘The Prom’. This is a lovely section except for dodging pedestrians, children, dogs, a boxing group doing an outdoor session and other cyclists.

Down the promenade at Portobello

Down the promenade at Portobello – this bit was empty though

Then at the end of The Prom a bit more main road stuff till Leith Links, back on to cycle paths. I had loaded the route on to my Garmin and it urged me to go right. We obeyed and swept magnificently round in a triangle to land up where we started. This would not be the last time! So pedal on, the right way this time. Down past Lamb’s House and then cobbles and more cobbles – felt like the Leith Roubaix! So ‘Sunshine on Leith’, except it wasn’t. We passed over the Water of Leith, strangely enough where I had watched the filming a couple of years back. This time there was a rather odd cormorant of a type we’d not seen before.

No sunshine over Leith

No sunshine over Leith

Strange cormorant

Strange cormorant

Once more we delved into the mysteries of the former railways of Lothian. I think because we were low down in the cuttings the GPS signal was somewhat erratic. Once again we shot off completely away from our intended route and landed up by the sea again. So it looked like another unintentional diversion – and once again not for the last time. At least this time as we meandered round the coast and the deliciously named Silverknowes we passed by Muirhouse Mansion with its superb fancy chimneys. The area is now better known for its housing estates, but back in the day it must have been quite a place.

Muirhouse Mansion

Muirhouse Mansion

We managed to get back on track more or less and passed by J K Rowling’s Edinburgh house. Time for a quick break. We stopped on Crammond Brig (Bridge) for a quick, a stretch and a non-fashion show. The river tumbled way down beneath us, brown with the recent rains.

Break at Crammond Brig

Break at Crammond Brig

Disreputable Crew?

Disreputable Crew?

So refreshed, onwards and upwards – the tiny hill from the Brig beckoned. Great, a good stretch of cycle way, reasonably surfaced, lay ahead of us. We bowled along happy as anything after all the various twists and turns. Then, a big yellow sign lay ahead. DIVERSION it screamed in big, big letters. The cycle path was closed and the main road was definitely not an option. Off we went into the estate on a road that seemed as though the diversion would be a pleasant experience. We passed the local posh house, not sure if it is still occupied, but the horse outside was quite something.

Dalmenny House

Dalmenny House

Then things became worse. The track deteriorated into bumpy, lumpy gravel, stones and mud. Arms, legs and backside were being hammered – it was the Dalmenny Roubaix this time, a special vibro masssage for free! Thank you Specialised for making a bike with zertz inserts and gel covered handlebars, and me for fitting 25mm tyres. Gradually though we came into sight of the Bridges. The iconic Forth Railway Bridge drifted into view vague behind the trees and gradually looming larger and larger in front of us.

Dalmenny Estate

Dalmenny Estate

Forth Rail Bridge

Forth Rail Bridge

Classic View?

Classic View?

The three bridges & a tug

The three bridges & a tug

Train Time

Train Time

So the first part of our journey was nearly over, all we had to do was find a way up onto the road bridge. Off we went through the town. Oh No!! More cobbles and this time the worst of the lot. It was the South Queensferry Roubaix. With chattering teeth from the vibrations we popped out at the far end and lo and behold a wee ramp leading up to bridge appeared before us. My Garmin informed us that we were on the right route again. And we had a lovely cycle track across the road bridge and the Forth, even though the cars and lorries were thundering past beside us.

Forth Road Bridge

Forth Road Bridge

Hurrah, we had at least reached Fife. We trundled through Inverkeithing, up past a fine old fashioned bike shop, but no time to browse. North, go north we did and eventually picked up a cycle track leading off to the east along a former railway with the wind pushing us gently along. Oh joy. Unfortunately we had to skirt through Dunfermline and guess what? Yes we got mislaid yet again, not sure why but at least it was just for a little. Eventually we started tramping along passing dogs, runners, walkers, cyclists, prams but this time horses as well. The Ochill hills also began to get closer. Only downside was stopping to stretch and eat some Jelly Babies, which we promptly spilled onto the ground covered with effects of all the various human and animal traffic and certainly not too edible after the baby spill.

Looking to The Ochils

Looking to The Ochils

We managed to to divert not too much coming through Alloa, though we meandered a bit true to form. The local architecture looked amazing, even without the promised sun, and the little track was a joy, with things like an old ruined doocot (dove cot or pigeon loft) not that long after the town

Back end of Alloa

Back end of Alloa

An old doocot

An old doocot

More of The Ochils

More of The Ochils

Now guess again what happened after this? Yup – maybe going too fast, maybe day dreaming, maybe taking in the scenery too much. We missed another turning and landed up too far north at Menstrie. This time it was a busy main road with loads of unpleasant traffic after the quiet of the cycle tracks and a cold headwind to add insult and still no sun. Drafting time after having been companionable most of the way. But the Wallace Monument (aye, him of Braveheart fame) grew closer and our destination was not far down the road.

The Wallace Monument gets nearer

The Wallace Monument gets nearer

Past the monument (must go one day), wheech down the side roads, over the Forth, a lot smaller here, over the bridge and into the station. Hurrah we’ve made it, coffee, rolls maybe cake as well. But no chance, the next train was leaving in 7 minutes, so tickets hurriedly bought, bikes hauled up and down station stairs and onto the platform for a short wait before the train announce itself. Onto the carriage and a nice young lady removed her bike from the rack to make way for us as she was getting off at the next station.

Stirling Station

Stirling Station

Cramped bike transport

Cramped bike transport

Back to Edinburgh, there was a connecting train in a few minutes but we couldn’t face it. Off to get a giant coffee and a massive baguette, much needed by now. Then over to the platform for the next train, this time using the lifts. In this busy station we couldn’t face lifting our bikes up and down the crowded stairs. Then onto the train, a bit of luxury for the bikes and views of Edinburgh’s old jail as we sped towards our final section of the journey.

A bit of luxury for the bikes

A bit of luxury for the bikes

Leaving Edinburgh

Leaving Edinburgh

Back along the chilly, muddy cycle path when suddenly Terry was going really slowly. I thought the distance had got to him a bit. He complained that the bike sounded as though the rear wheel bearing was going. When I looked the rear tyre was flat. We pumped it up and with just 1 km to home Terry was totally determined just to get back. After a cheery farewell I was on my own again, into the wind and the temperature down to 3ºC. I got to the hill above the village and looked at the mileage. It was 137km. The latest Strava Grand Fondo Challenge was 150 km – how could I resist. So off on an extra circuit with a wee bit extra thrown in and then home. Yeh, done it!!!!!!! With all the extras thrown in my 67 mile trip had become 94.4 miles (151km) and I felt great.

And today as a mini celebration I went sea & surf canoeing with a pal.

Roll on 68?

Note: Normally I take a route map along as I find the Garmin map hard to read. Because of the last minute changes I didn’t manage to print one off – the very time I could have done with it.

Also apologies for the photo quality, lots of them taken on the move from a camera over my shoulder on automatic, ah well.

The Birthday Bash

The Birthday Bash

107.2 km – it’s only going to get harder as the years go by?

Harbingers of Spring

Harbingers of Spring

Well spring appears to be sprung. it’s suddenly warmed up (for now), there’s a vast snow melt & floods up north and the season’s flowers are emerging.

Plus I get to be a little older in birthdays in a few days time.

So what am I planning if the weather allows? I should be taking the train up to Stirling and cycling home. It’s just 107.2 kilometres and on reasonably flat terrain, compared to here.

Why 107.2, well it’s 67 miles and that’s the birthday I’m hoping to celebrate. I think this is maybe a bad precedent to set? Next year it may have to be 108.8 km, the year after 110.4 and in 33 years time 160 km. I think I’ve maybe made a rod for my own back?

Maybe I should have made the challenge 67 km, but where’s the fun in that?

And just for your enjoyment a wee neighbour just up the river a couple of days ago.

A Dipper keeping an eye open beside the Scottish Tyne

A Dipper keeping an eye open beside the Scottish Tyne

ps Apologies – I just can’t resist – it’s the mathematician in me!!