Category Archives: hills

Paparazzi

Just a few weeks back I was out on the Haddington Cycle Club ride. One of the magazines, Cycling Weekly, came out to join us, to do an article on the club. We gathered in the square, next to the fountain with the statue of Samson on a pillar. I had to borrow a club vest as I didn’t have any club kit. We had all been asked to put on a show & turn up. Over 30 of us gathered.

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The Gathering – Haddington

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Andy gets his first shots

Powerbar, who sponsor the shoot, had a lass handing out bars and gels. I took the former, but passed on the second. We were given instructions, such as “ignore the camera for a ‘realistic’ shot” etc. and split into two groups.

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Leaving Haddington

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Passing Berwick Law

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Trevor joins the gang

It was a bit chilly and cloudy at the start but gradually improved through the day. I took my camera with me and at one point pushed ahead a little to take a shot of the gang approaching. Unfortunately I hadn’t seen the cameraman, Andy, up ahead and was ushered back into the fold for a photo up.

As we headed up the coast towards the hills the sun made an appearance. Trevor, the journalist, rode with each of us gathering info for the article. He was impressed by the route and the countryside and said he’d be back in East Lothian some time to ride for himself.

We reached the cafe up in the hills, the Lanterne Rouge, resplendent in its Bianchi blue. The staff were brilliant managing to serve us all reasonably promptly, despite the numbers. As expected, there was loads of chat and Andy was busy circling round, camera at the ready. We all had to pose for a mug shot, complete with our names on paper napkins for later identification.IMG_4083IMG_4084IMG_4085

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Andy at work in ‘The Lanterne Rouge’

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Leaving ‘The Lanterne Rouge’ and Gifford

Finally we left the cafe and sauntered, sort of, back to Haddington for a farewell to the team of two. We now await the publication, which is due in early June.

I then rode on to enjoy a ride of 70+ miles in all, great fun! When the article was published, there I was – a white bearded fossil talking about his plans for a world record attempt, when (and if) he reaches his centenary – time will tell!!

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Near the end of the ride, rough-roading it

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Ducks in Tyne Bay, sifting mud

This was going to be it, but I never got round to publishing. Then a couple of weeks later – out went the call again.

This time Scottish cycling wanted some publicity shots for the Tour of Britain, coming through Haddington then up to a King of the Mountain climb nearby at Redstone Rigg. This time it was more static, with us posing & riding around by the river. Quite a giggle, but when the photos came out I was nicely hidden behind everyone! So much for my 15 minutes of fame!

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Posing for club photo

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The race is on

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Swollen head?

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Official Scottish Cycling car

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Official Tour of Britain car

I’ve signed up to be a marshal for the Redstone Rigg section of the Tour of Britain this year. Up there on Sunday. Team Skye caught me in a shot there last time so maybe we’ll have to fight the photographers off this year, who knows?

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Another Month Gone By

What an amazing year so far, not even the end of March and I’m almost up to 2,000 miles of mainly joyous cycling, plus a new bike to play with.

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Showing off again? Fat & mountain bike together.

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Above the estuary

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He’s behind you, somewhere

The last few days have been splendid, with that evil wind finally decreasing and the sun coming out to play more. I’ve even been cycling in shorts again, lounging in the outside chairs at the cafe stop and overheating some of the time!

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Cafe stops & bare legs in March!

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Mainly blue skies and sunshine as well

As usual, shortly after my birthday I cycled my birthday miles – 69. It was wild and windy, but I managed to find some shelter in the bunch for part of the time on the upwind section. Back down out of the hills and along the coast we flew and quite near home I had averaged 16.5 mph, but was still 10 miles short. So on down to Dunbar and then a wrong decision, back home via the hills and into the wind again solo, oh how the average plummeted! Ah well!

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Into my 70th year on earth

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Some of the gang

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The new machine

There’s been some great rides too, both solo and with companions.

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Climbing one of the steep ones

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The hill fort caption board (see photo above for a view from above)

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Over the tops

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The road is there somewhere

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An adder escaping into the heather

I bought a new bike for my birthday, as my other one was wearing out after much use & abuse over the last 9 years. I went over to Fife to collect it, planning to cycle home via the Forth Road Bridge and Edinburgh. The ride up to the bridge was pretty desperate, with wild, wild winds and gusts. When I got to the bridge it was closed to lorries, pedestrians and cyclists, so back into Inverkeithing, onto the train station and as I wheeled the bike onto the platform the train was pulling in, yippee. I secured my less new looking bike & settled down for a short journey over the Forth rail bridge to Dalmeny on the other side. Whilst purchasing a ticket I was told that the train didn’t stop there, so my cycle journey was shortened by getting off at the outskirts of Edinburgh.

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The new road bridge over the Forth, from the train, on the way out

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Forth Road Bridge closed because of the gale

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An unexpected train journey for the new bike

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Looking out to the Forth Estuary

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Whoops – discovered this fault when I got home, no wonder the front gear change was clunky!!

I went right through the centre of the city, dodging cars, buses, taxis and trams etc. Once back into East Lothian I flew along in a little calm bubble as I was going the same speed as the wind.

And how has the bike been? Magicke. It has front suspension, which is great on our dodgy roads, the handling is superb, the disc brakes brilliant and all the hidden cables etc. make it a joy to keep clean. I’ve had it now for over 300 miles and the only change was putting on my old Brookes saddle, I just didn’t get on with the Specialized one, despite tinkering with the adjustment. The suspension is sometimes a bit clunky at times but works well and makes a difference to my tender ageing parts.

On foot, there have been some gorgeous days walking as well, though we missed seeing a kingfisher by a minute or so the other day. Plenty of other flora and fauna to entertain though.

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Seen on our walks . . . .

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Another recent highlight was going to a talk by Grame Obree, former hour world champion amongst many other achievements. He was ‘pure brilliant’, outlining his background, successes, downsides and personal philosophy with humour and truthfulness. It was a very enlightening evening, enjoyed by everyone I spoke to.

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Examining “The Beastie” at Graeme Obree’s talk

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At Graeme Obree’s talk ‘The Beastie’, how he fits in I’ve little idea

So, now Spring is rize, hopefully fewer layers and some good longish rides await.

Since I wrote this (tempting fate?) I’ve been off the bike for a week, but the cough, stiffness and aches are diminishing so should be out soon.

Winter throws it all at you

It’s been quite a winter here so far. Temperatures have been bouncing around all over the place, -2°c one day +11°C the next. It’s also been blowing a hooley one day and calm as can be the next. So what has that meant for cycling? Basically unless it is icy, just get happed up and out the door, then turn the pedals.

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Sunset ride and on with the snow, though near home

It helps that it is so gorgeous round here, wether it be the waves with white horses pounding on the sea in the bays, the farmers going about their business in the fields or the dusting of snow on the hills.

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Rainbows near home

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Up in the hills

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One of the ‘interesting’ roads up high

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Below the hills with sunset approaching

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Another dodgy local road

We had a gale recently with cold sleet lower down. I had previously got out my skis for a failed cross country attempt up in the Lammermuir hills. This time I was lucky. I got up to the start before the reservoir and put on my skis beside the car, then away. Conditions were amazing considering there had been no snow at all two days before. Hardly any wind, deep blue sky and not too cold. I took a fun route up, the wax on my skis just gripping enough to get me up the first slopes. I then came across the wee feeder dam with its water channel leading off. Enough snow to pop along it for a mile or so. As I skied gently along the grouse were calling, making that sound like small motorbikes. I skied round the reservoir then fitted the skins for the steeper ascent to the tops. The snow was slightly crusted but I was soon up above the valleys, only breaking through the crust occasionally. It was glorious up high, calm, views for miles and white all round the horizon. A day to dream about? I only saw two folk out and passed only one, pausing for a wee chat. The descent was ‘interesting’, a few quick turns, but with a mixture of heather end breakable crust it was mainly a stop, a kick turn of my freeheel skis and a scoot off again on a long travers. I somehow managed to ski down, with the occasional slow speed tumble. Just a wee bit along from the car I had to unclip as the patchy snow lower down had decided it was time to melt.

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Hare tracks near the start

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Collecting water for the reservoir

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The viaduct just waiting to be skied

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Not too much snow low down

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Getting higher, with Hopes reservoir below

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A distant wind farm – Crystal Rigg

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Looking back at my ski tracks

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At the summit for today

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I came down the snowy bit in the sun, snow had melted now lower down

Next day, another storm and almost all the snow had disappeared. Sometimes you just have to grasp the opportunity!

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Up in the Lammermuirs again, 2 days after skiing, where’s the snow?

A couple of days later we were up over the hills again, this time on our bikes. It was blowing hard again, but we dug in and ploughed our way up Humbie for coffee and scones. Then with the wind behind us Terry & I peeled off to climb over the Rigg – a locally renowned section. We knew we would see plenty of folk as an audax was on and going that way. After scooting fast along the back roads, pushed by the winds, we came across bunches of cyclists heading upwards. We joined them and pottered slowly up. On the steepest section, (17°), I was hit by a ferocious gust and stopped dead with a quick dismount. I was fairly puggled anyway from fighting the wind uphill, so rested for a bit to regain my breath, once there was a slight lessening I mounted again and carried on to the top. The descent was fabulous, whizzing down at 45 mph. On the way we had met other friends so we pottered along, more or less together , chatting away. So a good 65 mile ride, not bad for February?

How do I keep warm on these cold days? Plenty of layers. Above 2 or 3°, 3 layers on top, double fleece gloves with oversize cycle gloves on top, buff and head cap too. Breathable waterproof socks over solid soled cycling shoes with no vents and bright pink neoprene overshoes. No real fancy expensive clothing, just stuff that does the job for me. If it gets below -2º another layer on top, winter cycling shoes and a ninja style neoprene face mask and bright yellow, horrible to us mitts. The final tip is to put shoes, socks and gloves on the radiator to warm up well before I go out. Works a treat and makes all the difference to me. I can cycle easily for 4-5 hours if I need to, and my circulation is rubbish!

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November 2016 – A rare pic of me, dressed for winter

Lastly a treat coming up. I’ve been looking at a newer bike as mine is now 8 years old. The new Specialized Roubaix Expert is looking just the bike for me, so I’ve been enquiring after deals – I’ll let you all now how it goes.

On a final note, there was a march through Edinburgh expressing our distaste and fear of Trump’s actions, as America affects us all. We joined in and it was good to see the home made posters appearing.img_8599img_3541img_3554And a wee antidote to politics from my ride today (2nd March)

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Snowdrops in the woods at a ‘comfort’ break

Fast (for me) riding, Portugal and back again

I’m not usually a quick rider, except downhill, but one evening just under a month ago, I just felt great and pushed up the heart rate.

It was misty but I kept pushing those pedals and just whistled along. Just over 25 miles and with 1000 feet of climbing  and lots of twists, turns and road junctions I managed just over 17 mph with an average heart rate of 145 bpm.

So, well chuffed and I felt good at the end.

But enough of stats!

Four days later I was in Portugal. I had arranged bike hire with from the same hirer I had used last year. There was a bit of a hitch that time, and another this time. The hirer had not read my email properly with my change of mobile number, so at the prearranged time at 9 am, no call, no bike. I managed to finally get in touch and the bike eventually got to me at 3 pm. Being from northern climes it was still way too hot to contemplate going out. Later that evening the temperature had cooled down a bit and it was time to go. A short 15 mile ride, with temperature averaging 23º. I went up into the local town of Alvor.

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Trying to get up the High Street, Alvor

I managed to get a bit(?) mislaid, but landed up down at the sea front.

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Alvor – at the lagoon

I decided to head back along the boardwalk, an interesting choice rattling and bumping along on 23mm tyres, so a wee bit of an adventure for several miles.

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The boardwalk

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Under the boardwalk, still a bit of a way to the cliffs

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Rock Coves, Prianhia

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Beaches at Prianhia

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Algarve sunset

I tootled around, on the back roads as much as I could, doing around 30 miles a day for the next 7 days. It was my sister’s 70th and the family had gathered to celebrate so I could only get out early in the morning. Reasonably cool first thing but the temperatures rose later in the morning, reaching 33º on my last ride.

The riding was very varied, the main roads, when I couldn’t avoid them, were busy but the drivers were mostly good though there were one or two hairy moments. The country roads were brilliant, mostly well surfaced with a couple of exceptions. Down by the coast it was very dry & dusty, quite a parched landscape. In the foothills there were orange groves then higher up eucalyptus plantations and some native woodlands, much cooler to cycle through out of the blaze of the sun.

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A colourful water tower, well lit at night

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Mont Fóia creating its own weather

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I manage to get mislaid in Portamao, my track looking like a heap of spaghetti, but the next day I managed to thread my way through more successfully.

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Portimao

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Portimao marina

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Them be pirates, argh

The ride to Silves was a bit hurried, but some of the wee hills on the route were good fun, despite problems with the lower gears. I adjusted them later and all was OK after that.

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Up above Silves

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Silver castle and cathedral

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The white bridge at Silves

The last day of cycling  was the best. Up to the top of the highest hill in the Algarve, Mont Fóia. I had been up here last year and was looking forward to renewing the acquaintance. The summit is at 902 metres (2,959 ft) and you climb up from the sea to the top, with little respite. The time before it was happed (shrouded) in mist and I didn’t see much. This time it was clear, but that meant hot, hot, hot by the time I got up there. The main climb of over 2,500 feet  is 12.5 miles long at an average gradient of 4% average, but with steep ramps up to 14%. The views got better and better as I climbed, with Storks & their young perched on telegraph poles, snakes roadkill beneath my tyres but very few riders, mainly folk going to work or shopping on their ‘sit up and beg’ bikes.

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One of the many storks, with young

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Snake road kill

So I climbed to Monchique, the village below the mountain. I didn’t stop there but carried on up the final 4.5 mile summit climb. It had steepened up too. Then I heard a puffing sound & a creaking gradually getting nearer. It was a young English guy on a slightly battered mountain bike. We eventually seemed to be going at a similar speed so teamed up and worked our way up the hill, mainly into the wind. At the top the view was spectacular in every direction, apart from the mess of masts and military establishments on the summit as well as a grotty looking cafe.

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A well earned summit rest

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My companion up the final slopes

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South to the Atlantic

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Military occupation of Mont Fóia

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Coming down off Mont Fóia looking north

My companion on the last bit of the climb had descended before me, so after a wee break for water and a bite it was time to go. Except for a brief time in Monchique I didn’t go under 20 mph all the way down, reaching almost 40 mph at one point. It was so exhilarating. By the time I reached Portamao the temperature had rocketed and the traffic increased so I made my way circumspectly back to base. An excellent 47 miles of riding with just that short break up high.

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The road to Mont Fóia (kms)

So a good 8 days of riding, despite the unwelcome (for me) heat.

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I thought this tree was wonderful

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Sunset by the sea

After much merriment, good company, food and drink it was back home to 10º average for the next ride, but it was welcome. At least I could dress up for it and not have to smother myself with factor 50 and be laden with water bottles. The next biggish ride was a 60 miler down into the Scottish borders. Still coldish, and it totally poured down at Duns, but warmed up a tiny bit on the way back. A strange thing happened, the Garmin stopped recording the height gain, while still totting up the mileage. At the end of the ride my Garmin had read just over 4,000 feet of ascent while the other saw over 5,400. One of my pals said he had read that there’s a wee hole in the bottom of the Garmin that allows the barometer to sense the pressure. When it is such wet weather this can block and stops the sensor from registering the height properly. Sure enough, when I got home & took the cover off a stream of water poured out from it – problem solved. Strava kindly corrected the data for me at the click of a button and it went up to over 5,400. My Garmin has been fine since.

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Back home to the mist & murk

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A wet Duns – Statue commemorating Wojtek the bear https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wojtek_(bear)

Since then it has warmed up to a reasonable 16º C so shorts again and some varied riding, with a 50 miler two days ago with the older yoofs retiree gang.

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Our local volcanic hill, Traprain Law (Law is Scots for hill)

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Faside Castle, yet another one visited by Mary Queen of Scots

And I thought that I wrote I would hold back on the stats!! I hope the pics make up for it!

Nothing Much

Just felt like writing a bit. So here goes.

“Spring is sprung, the grass is riz” in the words of E.E. Cummings. So the weather has gone crazee, as ever. Mid April and snow, though just wee suggestions of it, but a dusting higher up. Before that I was down to 2 layers and hoping for shorts, that’s on the back burner again. Managing to get in the miles though, some warm, some cold, some dry, some wet and some very, very wet.

The first ride after the longish one was out with the Sunday crew, 51 miles in a whole slew of weather, but at least coffee & cake was on the menu.

After that it was much better, grinning like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, warm & dry once I’d climbed up into an inversion above the murk with lambs in the fields & skylarks yelling from above.

Then came our usual Tuesday ride  with the gang of FOSSILs (Fine Old Senior Souls In Lycra)  I ride with every week. Coffee stops and scones are just about compulsory. Forecast was not fine, but some were better than others. Half way round we were nearing the cafe, but cold & drouchit we passed on the stop and headed for home. So 32 wet, wet and chilly miles that took my gear a long while to dry out.

The last one was just gorgeous with the compensation of a glorious sunset, pheasants dotting about the place and a hare bounding up the road in front of me. If I wanted variety then living here gives it all.

Today was a wee bit different, nearby is a wake boarding centre, so we pottered down for a wee wander. As a bonus the local primroses were out in the woods and the bluebells just showing the mass of blue that is to come.

As ever a few pics:

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A steep hairpin

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Round & down

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Topping out

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Looking north, better get hame before the light goes

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Sunset with no rain or snow

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Cherry blossom in the sunset

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Fun at Foxlake

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Wakeboarding the jumps

 

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.

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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).

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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.

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A bonny glen

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Bumpy roads again

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Spot the white cow sculpture, some house too!

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An old fortified house, nicely restored

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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.

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Sutra Aisle, with sunshine weakly beckoning

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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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Bike or Ski?

There’s snow on our local hills, so the dilemma arises. I often manage a wee ski trip or two when conditions are right.

I had already managed one very small one this year so yesterday was a bonus. Snow, sunshine, no wind and the hills had looked good on the bike ride the day before. There was no real choice! I had some of the afternoon free so just had to go. And it was glorious. The snow lower down was perfect, though it turned a bit softer higher up.

A quick drive up (it’s only 10 – 15 minutes away), skins on the skis, heel lifts fitted, hop over the gate, say hello to the sheep and away. Got into a loverly rythym going up with occasional brief pauses for photos. Met the secondd gate and managed to hop(?) over it fairly disgracefully, then the undulating climb upwards to the top of the hill. The views on the way up and at the top were wonderful. Above me was Lammerlaw, but not enough time and the snow was getting too soft for the return journey. So, off with the skins and away. Gliding along the ridge and then the speedier descents. The wax on the skis worked well gripping on the flatter sections and gliding nicely on the faster downhill sections.

Lower down the snow was perfect for telemarking and the turns felt good. Though I was back down I was high as a kite. Glorious!!!!!!

For those who don’t know the terminology, skins are attached to the bottom of the skis with releasable glue. The nap of the fabric (it used to be seal skins in the old days) faces backwards and enables the skier to climb up hills. The heel lifts up the heel of the ski boot, this makes the boot level & puts less strain on your leg muscles. The wax, applied to the bottom of the ski, grips when you put pressure on it to go forward, but glides when there’s no pressure. You need different grades of wax for different temperatures – a real black art! A telemark turn is one where one leg slides backwards behind the other and the two skis form effectively one long one.You can only do this on freewheel skis. I also use telescopic poles, adjusted to be longer for pushing uphill but shorter for the downhills to help with the turns.So there you go, a wonderful pursuit when conditions are right.

There’s worse to come though, a cheesy video is in production!

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Almost ready

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Gorgeous snow conditions lower down

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Have to wait for the descent

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More fence icicles

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Strange icicles growing vertically

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Looking east

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Hare and fox tracks

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Over to Fife and the Firth of Forth

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A gulley to the east over the valley

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Another gully to the east

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Follow the hare in reverse

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Gate number 3

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Sun, sun, sun

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Lammerlaw ahead, waits for another day

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As far as I go, skins off & ready to go

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Haddington, down low

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Time to head down

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Starting the ski back

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These specs were clear when I left the car

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Oh so elegant!!

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Ski tips lead the way down

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Trapain Law and the Bass Rock

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Quad bike & ski tracks up

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Gate number 2

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turns in the snow

 

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-26

The car waits at the bottom

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-24

Ski track up and down, put delight

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-27quad bike, ski and sheep tracks

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-03

The sheep & hill at the finish

Lammermuirs Track

The Strava trace of the ski track up & down

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-29

The road home