Category Archives: Drink

Just a wee thing – ughhhhhhhh!

How small is a bug? How big is it’s effect? Two and a half weeks ago I was jetting off to Mallorca (Majorca) for a cycling holiday. I had done a 90 mile Sportive the week before and felt very fit and raring to go. The morning of the flight I had a tickly throat. The temperatures for the week were exceptionally hot, one day averaging 30ºC, despite starting early. I seemed to just feel thirsty the whole time, despite drinking litres of fluid.

How I feel now!

How I feel now!

Halfway through the week the cough started and as ever I rode through it, thinking “It won’t get any worse” -it did. We managed a lot of cycling both in length and height amidst some amazing scenery, with good food and drink (for me mostly non-alcoholic), and I thought “when I get back, I’ll have this cough for a wee bit, then I’ll be back to normal”. I didn’t and I wasn’t.

The Spiral

The Spiral near the top of Sa Calobra

A week & a half later the antibiotic is kicking in, the cough is finally subsiding, and I’ve still not been out on the bike yet and it has been so dry and sunny, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!! Plus I had to cancel a four day canoe/camping trip down the River Spey from Loch Insch to the sea at Spey Bay.

Last Spey trip 2013

Last Spey trip 2013

But at least I’ve got the feeling that things are improving, though I will have lost that hard gained fitness I suppose. It’s a re-run of November for me.

Meanwhile I have been saddened by events in Nepal. I went there in 1999 and have stayed in touch with some Nepal folk there since then. It has made me upset to see the destruction, devastation and loss of life caused by the earthquakes. At least one of the villages I stayed in has been reduced to heaps of rubble, with just one house left. I visited the monastery there with its ancient scrolls, wall paintings and hospitality, now just swept away. And throughout the country so many deaths, which will become worse when the monsoon arrives and lack of proper shelter, further landslides, food shortages and disease have their effect. It is such a poor country and the effect on tourism will be devastating to add to all their woes. The Disasters Emergency Committee (http://www.dec.org.uk/appeal/nepal-earthquake-appeal) are collecting donations to help in the UK and I know there are probably others in your part of the world. So if you feel inclined to give something that would be great. And if you’re doing it from the UK & pay tax remember to claim gift aid. Anyway, here’s to my next ride out and DEC continuing to help.

Langtang with the monastery at the back, now all swept away

Langtang with the monastery at the back, now all swept away

Langtang Monastery in 1999

Langtang Monastery in 1999

Langtang Monastery in 1999

Langtang Monastery in 1999

Langtang Monastery in 1999

Langtang Monastery in 1999

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Roasting in Majorca: quite a few pics

As I’ve posted before, I’m not a fan of very hot and sunny weather so when a bike trip to Majorca was mooted and I found out that the temperature was usually in the low 20s I thought that this would be great. So bike hired, saddle from my own bike taken off and all packed and ready to go – I was definitely up for it. We arrived at Palma, coached over to Port de Pollensa and had a late lunch and unpacking session before heading for the bike hire. The bike was a Trek Madone and looked ok. I had asked them to put an 11-34 on the back, but an 11-32 was fitted, which was fine. Went for a wee 5 mile tootle in the sun up over 1200 ft to a local 16th century tower with Johnny and then back to the shop to get the rear gears adjusted. After that everything was sorted. But it was still hot. So back to the pool for a relax and beer.

Johnny climbing up into the tower, too dodgy with look cleats!

Johnny climbing up into the tower, too dodgy for me with Look cleats!

Near the tower above Port de Pollensa

Near the tower above Port de Pollensa

In the town

In the town

Looking over the beach to the tower

Looking over the beach to the tower

Day two the group pottered about getting first day things sorted and as we set off the heat started to build up. We climbed over the first col, I felt a real drouth, despite drinking loads. Slapping on even more suncream we carried on to a monastery where shade, huge fresh pressed orange drinks and coffees were indulged in and even in the shade it was hot, hot hot. I’d had to leave my bike in the sun & the Garmin went up to 47°C – ouch, more suncream.

Map reading time again

Map reading time again

Lunch at the monastry

Lunch at the monastry

Coming down from the col

Coming down from the col

Some of the crew on the road

Some of the crew on the road

Next ride was a ‘flat’ day! We were mainly in the central plains area. Being lower down it was even hotter. All the cliches about heat became true for me. It was good to be mainly on the wee roads again and the traffic was great, giving us wide berths when passing and slowing down when appropriate. Goats, sheep with deep clanging sheep bells occasional cows or bulls and loads of twittery birds in the trees and bushes. After a bit Pete & I became ‘detached’ from the main group. They hadn’t waited at a particular point and we went a different route. So, up into the village square and a coffee and orange while we waited for them. Unfortunately they had waited at the bottom of the village while we were at the top. Eventually we carried on without them, going through some pretty towns and villages on the way.

San Pablos, a lovely town

San Pablos, a lovely town

Majorca10

San Pablos Square

Looking back

Looking back

Pete had been to a cafe in Petra almost a year before to the day so we went there for lunch, it had been mentioned as a place we would aim for and sure enough there, in one of the squares, were the others. After a bit of chat they went off for lunch and Pete & I demolished another Zumo (giant fresh pressed orange) and coffee. The cafe was totally geared up for cyclists (ho ho?), fresh orange segments were served to us, water bottles filled with ‘go fast’ natural, osmosis filtered spring water for free and ice cubes put into water bottles. Plus we had pleasant banter with the family owning the cafe in a mixture of Spanish and English – just superb.

Petra Square, just a few cyclists

Petra Square, just a few cyclists?

Then it was the hot road back. I lost my cool a bit at the others dithering over route choice for the umpteenth time and just made my own way back eventually. At least I choose a route with a slightly cooling sea breeze. Because it was a ‘flat’ day we only climbed just over 2000 feet.

Tree roots through sandstone by the road

Tree roots through sandstone by the road

One of the many lovely churches

One of the many lovely churches

Good sign?

Good sign?

Another day and guess what? Yes, it was hot, hot, hot again. Pete & I left early to catch the cool. We went up to Lucc, this time by the shady route, which was magic. Once over the col we switchedbacked our way over to the highlight of the day, Sa Calobra. This is a must for cyclists to the area. First you climb up to a wee pass, then you go down to the deep turquoise sea . The descent is fabulous, over one of europe’s few spiral bridges and down a multitude of hairpins. After whooping with delight a lot you reach the bottom, knowing “The Only Way is Up” as the group used to sing. But first, yes, coffee, zumo and a trip through the tunnels to the local ‘Torrente’.

Pots but no pans, one broken, one stapled together

Pots but no pans, one broken, one stapled together

Pete finishing a long, hot climb

Pete finishing a long, hot climb

Under the aqueduct, now defunct

Under the aqueduct, now defunct

Sa Calobra, far busier than it looked

Sa Calobra, far busier than it looks

The tunnel to the Torrente

The tunnel to the Torrente

The rugged limestone cliffs on the coast

The rugged limestone cliffs on the coast

Then back up, 7+ miles at 7+% in the heat. So slowly, slowly spinning my way up with spectacular views, smiles and a sense of wonder at this amazing road. Plenty of time to look at everything, with wee stops for photies and a derailed chain. Just over an hour later – the top and this time a fanta, just for a change. The whole team were together again and we flew along, relatively speaking, to the fantastic descent to Pollenta, oh I love going quick and this had it all, glorious, sinuous curves, occasional sharp bends or hairpins, straight smooth bits and scenery to match, bliss!

Squeeze past?

Squeeze past?

Looking back at the last bit of a wonderful 2,00+ foot climb.

Looking back at the last bit of a wonderful 2,000+ foot climb.

The spiral bridge, where the road crosses itself

The spiral bridge, where the road crosses itself

We needed an easy next time so it was  off to the Cap Formentor. I just missed the others setting off so pushed hard up the first hill to meet them. This just knackered me for the trip out. I tried to film the decent, another smooth but curly road, but the sportscam switched off for some reason. The route was spectacular with huge sea cliffs, shady roads, a tunnel and wonderful views. Coffee and orange at the Cap with hundreds of tourists and cyclists milling about. The way back was scary, hire cars coming round blind bends half way across the road, others trying to scrape past or blowing their horns and on one blind bend downhill a woman walked out in front of me without looking, that one was so close, so close. Eventually back to the hotel shaking my head a bit as almost all the other days had been so different.

Tunnel on the road to Cap Formentor

Tunnel on the road to Cap Formentor

Cap Formentor, amazing scenery but cycle early otherwise busy and dangerous

Cap Formentor, amazing scenery but cycle early otherwise busy and dangerous

Coming back from Cap Formentor

Coming back from Cap Formentor

The morning after saw us all take off together to wander around the lower foothills and onto the plains again, just for a change it was hot.

A huge ladslide

A huge ladslide

One of the many round-a-bout sculptures, a touch of Miro?

One of the many round-a-bout sculptures, a touch of Miro?

Love the tiles

Love the tiles

Pete rcovers

Pete recovers

I fancied a mainly solo day for my last ride , so initially Johnny & I pottered  over to Cala de Sant Vincenc for morning coffee by the sea. It was gorgeous, steep limestone cliffs dropping into the bay, with vivid turquoise water. We pottered round the bay and made our way back up towards Pollenta. Johnny left to go back & I did my last climb up to the Col de Femenia via lovely back roads and some rough stoney paths. The descent from the Col was fantastic, speeding down, it was great to have my Garmin map highlighting the approaching tight turns and hairpins.

Cana de Vincenc restaurant for coffee

Cana de Vincenc restaurant for coffee

A cove at Cana de Vincenc

A cove at Cana de Vincenc

The hire bike and a rustic gate

The hire bike and a rustic gate

A restored donkey powered grinding mill with wooden gears

A restored donkey powered grinding mill with wooden gears

Strange limestone scenery

Strange limestone scenery

An egret (I think) in the meadow

An egret (I think) in the meadow

Sensible donkey?

Sensible donkey?

So that was it, 7 days of sun, sun, sun.  Over 300 miles and 20,000 feet of ascent travelled.

And what did I think? The landscape, the villages and the roads were lovely and in places spectacular, but for me the heat was a real problem, one day the average temperature was 29.5ºC. Just too much, I felt permanently thirsty, with a searing throat, though this may have have more about my developing cough. The road users were mainly delightful and except for the Formentor day, very courteous and patient. It was wonderful to see cyclists everywhere and some of the climbs were like something out of a fantasy world – especially Sa Calobra with its twists and turns and the amazing spiral at the top. Would I go back -possibly if cooler, but dry weather and a certain lack of lurgi could be guaranteed. So for your delight, here are a couple of local gravestones as a finisher for the article.

A happy gravestone?

A happy gravestone?

Hope she's got her suncream?

Hope she’s got her suncream?

What Do You Taste?

A bit of ice to keep me warm!

A bit of ice to keep me warm!

Another in my self imposed series of the senses.
Taste is closely allied to smell, take way your sense of smell and it will diminish the taste of food or drink. If you can normally smell everything OK and get a bad cold it can take away the taste of food and diminish your appetite.
So what about taste and the bike? It is certainly varied according to the seasons, the terrain, the atmosphere etc.
So it probably starts before you’re even on the bike. Maybe that breakfast taste of marmalade and toast, that hot butter and coffee all still weaving their spell on you taste buds?
Eventually it fades away and the taste becomes a background consciousness of saliva or mucus working away in your mouth. In winter maybe this will be all, though following the peloton could alter this, for better or worse. In summer other tastes will float in with things like the pollens from the fields or forests, such as the sweet sickly taste of oil seed rape, sticking in the throat once your long past the bright yellow field. Or the salt in your mouth as you past the sea front on a windy day, with a faint spray making contact. Or that dry dust thrown up by the wind.
Then there’s the winter with the others in front of you, especially those without mudguards. Yuch, that mud thrown up, that earthy taste. Double Yuch, you pass a field of cows recently herded in, just keep that mouth shut otherwise this just isn’t going to be the sensation you want in your throat. Sometimes though it’s just snow flakes melting on your tongue.
Then bliss, a stop for coffee and scones. That quenching taste of the hot liquid heading down the tongue, lingering again when you’re on your way once more.
But there’s one I hope doesn’t happen too often, that familiar taste. You hit a bad pothole or a bump in the road hard, the blood is in your mouth from biting down suddenly. So much for trying to be alert for 100% of the time, it just won’t happen.
Your water bottle can provide a bit of variety, the slightly metallic taste of some energy compound mix, or sometimes, in my case, sometimes a faint sense of that tiny, tiny bit of red wine I mix in before I go. Also the gels or snacks for energy may give you another thing to savour.
And then there’s that delight when a great smell from a gorgeous field, or pine wood translates itself into a taste that just lingers gently in the background as you cycle on.
So, what do you taste when you are out?

Le Tour de Farce – 1st Edition

Brilliant!!

Brilliant!! Hope you like the not-a-go-pro hanging round my neck!

Last year was the 100th edition of Le Tour de France, so a group of localish riders decided to head out to Alpes d’Huez for this historic event + 5ish days cycling, especially as the Tour was coming up the hill twice. We named our group Le Tour de Farce, and Tour de Farce it was in some ways.

Edinburgh airport, we were all assembled for our flight, bikes at the ready, the queue kept building up, nothing was moving. Finally they came to tell us all the ticketing computers had gone down. Aghghgh, slight panic – cars to collect at the other end. After 2 1/2 hours things were sorted (manually) and we left the ground.

Arrived at Geneva, got bike off the carousel, wandered through customs & passport checks to wait for the others. No-one at first, then some came out – 2 bikes had gone astray and 1 set of luggage, complete with biking gear. Aghghghgh – more slight panic. Decision time, some of us were sent off in one car, while the rest stayed in to see if things could be retrieved.

A few hours later in Alpes d’Huez, we went for a bite, a pizza – darkness coming, so too late for that first evening cycle. Apparently after midnight the rest of the gang arrived having achieved not much.

Next day the bikes were loaned out, but I was left with mine. The gang decided to go down the hill & then pootle back up (if that’s the right word for a 3,00 foot, 21 hairpin climb averaging too many %)

So I got on my bike & climbed up to the twin lakes a mere 1,100 feet above. I had had a break in my riding as my granddaughter had come over from S Africa for a month and we spent so much time together, so I knew this trip would be a struggle – but slowly, slowly . . . . . .

Possibly the best descent of the trip.

Possibly the best descent of the trip from Le Col de Sarenne

The after noon arrived and the 2nd group set off with me in tow to climb over the Col de Sarenne & then Alpes d’Huez. Fabulous weather but hot, hot, hot. On the way up to the Col we had to take to grass riding/ pushing to bypass the folk laying down fresh tarmac for the Tour coming through in 2 days time. We paused at the top and I stayed behind to take photos & videos of the team tentatively going down, then wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!! A fantastic descent for the fools like me and with the temperature at 90 degrees + (32+C) a lovely cooling off period. I managed to overtake everyone on the descent so not bad for an old fool.

The it was into Le Bourg d’Oisans at the foot of the big one for a well earned drink & pâtisserie. Then off to climb ‘The Hill’. I set off a tiny bit before the others, but most had passed me by about the 7th bend. Masses and masses of cyclist were toiling upwards. I then suddenly realised I was totally out of it, I was meandering all over the road & with not much between me and the drop beside me I decide recuperation was the order of the day. I later realised the temperature had reached 102 degrees (39C). So I hid under a bush for 20 mins, with a butterfly to keep me company. Once I continued I drank even more & doused myself with water under the roadside waterfalls. I’m from Scotland – we don’t do this sort of heat! But eventually made it back.

Then off for a pizza, now when in France I love to eat nice French food, in a lovely restaurant, but ‘the gang’ had other ideas. Not sure about the general Europop around the village either, but hey?

Breakfast at Boirg d'Oisans, French style

Breakfast at Boirg d’Oisans, French style

Next day the delayed bikes had arrived & it was the big one. The Col de Galibier beckoned. This time a mere 7,000 ft of ascent. At least the start was a a blast down from Huez and a lovely French breakfast in the village below.

At 13% a real sting in the tail

The team arrive up the final slope, at 13% a real sting in the tail

Several hours, 26.7 miles and 6144 feet later we were at the top, feeling fabulous.

La Meije, my acquaintance from 30+ years ago.

La Meije, my acquaintance from 30+ years ago.

Descending from La Meije Oriental summit 1985, maybe looking ovet to Galibier?

Descending from La Meije Oriental summit, 1985, maybe looking over to Galibier on the left?

On the way up we had views of the Meije Oriental, which I had climbed nearly 30 years ago. Then it was wooshing away back down. We stopped at La Grave for a late lunch and as we finished a huge downpour started. But, it was warm, so we set off anyway splashing our way down. I wimped out of the Huez climb again having already 70 miles and a car being available, but the others were braver than I. That night pizzas (though I opted for Lasagne), beer and Europop – no comment.

Next day, the great day arrived. Whizz, down to the bottom, breakfast at the cafe then the ascent before the Tour arrived. There were probably 20,000 or so of us peddling up those hairpins and 250,00 of spectators on the slopes. With my white beard & Scottish flag flying from the back of the bike I was greeted with cries of Ah, Le Diablo Ecosse (after an eccentric Italian who follows the Tour every year nicknamed Le Diablo). Loads of bravos, cheers, europop blaring out, manic Dutch corner, wee pushes and a wee diversion near the top away from the final finish. A really great but bizarre experience.

Alpes d'Huez - the leaders arrive first time round

Alpes d’Huez – the leaders arrive first time round

Alpes d'Huez, arrival of le peleton

Alpes d’Huez, arrival of le peleton

A quick sandwich & the down to the village to see Le Tour come through, accompanied by Europop, cheers that drowned out the music(?) and a fantastic atmosphere.

Le Pelton coming through Alpes d'Huez 2nd time round

Le Pelton coming through Alpes d’Huez 2nd time round

Then up to our apartments to watch progress on the TV & Le Tour coming through a second time beneath out balcony.

Then later, back down to the village for more beer and? (I’m sure you can guess by now)

Next day, up too late for a final ride, bikes dismantled the night before, then smooth progress back to Scotland.

An amazing if strange experience, would I do it again? Well this year it was the Giro d’Italia starting off in Dublin & I declined, But I’m glad I experience Le Farce & I’d try to be fitter next time.

Sharing my bath and other nasties

In Nambiti Game Park, South Africa, near Ladysmith,  winter sunrise

In Nambiti Game Park, South Africa, near Ladysmith, winter sunrise

I know, I know, ‘they’ recommend a cold bath, even with ice after a hard ride.

I know, I know a shower is the thing to get you clean and flush away the debris of a long ride.

But, I love to soak in a hot bath for a long time (topping it up occasionally), finishing a few chapters of my latest book.

But after a 90+ mile, very hilly ride I decided warm water relax would be just the thing.

It had been a hot ride (31 degrees for a while – and this is Scotland!), I’d been very, very slow. Dehydrated despite drinking litres of fluid, but legs felt OK.

So into the bath, ah bliss. Then a noticed the wee black dots around me in the water. The berry bug season has started. These tiny wee flies are not a good thing, they crawl into the tight areas of clothing and take a tiny bite out of you. The result – red, itchy spots for days after. Luckily when cycling they don’t seem to bite, just crawl, so maybe the induced wind keeps them at bay?

So ignore the things, with all that water they aren’t surviving anyway, make sure I rinse at the end and goodbye to my shared bathing experience.

In the middle of the ride I had got slightly off route. I came across this ford and started to ride across, slowly luckily. After a metre the bike started sliding all over the place. In a feat worthy of Danny MacAskill, I managed to regain my balance, unclip and get my feet on the ground. Then on foot I ploutered across the ford with the bike, still slipping & sliding all the way, but without falling into the river, just. So, it was soaking wet feet for the next 45 miles.

Finally, they’ve been spraying tar and gravel chips onto some of my favourite routes locally. One road was resurfaced about a year or two ago and was a pure delight, a ribbon of tarmac. It’s a wee quiet back road so now it’ll be a while before it will be properly rideable again.

Ah well.

Cycle nutrition, clothing, gear etc.

I sometimes wonder about the cycling/ sports industry.

As more and more folk take up going out on their bikes, so the pressure mounts to buy special foods/ gels etc., drink special concoctions, wear special clothing & footwear.

For a while I’ve thought that a lot of it must be a load of tosh for the vast majority of us, this was confirmed for me in a BBC Panorama report as well as other news items.

So what do I do?

Drink water but not much, occasionally with a bit of orange juice (or wine) in it.

Make up goodie bags of nuts, raisons dates, dried fruit, bits of chocies, jelly babies etc which I can nibble on from a triathlon bag on my crossbar (or whatever it’s called nowadays).

Look for bargain bike shoes or clothing.

And it works for me.

But I have spent big & enjoy good bib shorts, winter bike shoes (it’s cold in Scotland sometimes).

So maybe some of it does the stuff, but at least I don’t seem to but into it all.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18863293

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01l1yxk