Category Archives: illusion

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Chilly Scottish mist

Chilly Scottish mist

Only event I’ve done this year – The Tour of Tweeddale down in the Scottish Borders, which I love. Friendly, magic soup at the food stops, good organisation, well signed etc.

I’ve entered this event for the last 3 years since it started. The first year it was just over 90 miles, last year 99 and this year 80, so looked like it was going to be easier.

Left home and it was 8ºC, so not too bad, had on two cycling shirts, the leg & arm warmers for the hanging about bit. Got down to Peebles, the car registered 3º – but I had on my down ‘gilet’ so felt good. Meet up with all sorts of friends and acquaintances and good chat with new faces.

Leg warmers off and set off into the misty gloom with the Haddington/ North Berwick crews, cruising along averaging about 17 mph. Instant freeze up of hands, strangely  the rest of me OK. The Garmin if I could have seen it registered 1º for the next hour and more. Luckily with all these fit people up front, apart from my occasional leads, it helped mitigate the wind chill a wee bit. Not only was the mist down, but my glasses were just about opaque as well and with lumps of frozen sausages for fingers I was finding it awkward to change gear, let alone the thought of having to do some emergency braking. Even when the sun came out the mist hung low & the faint glow wasn’t enough to warm things up.

We came up Loch Talla, which looked absolutely amazing. The mist was swirling across the water, breaking up and reforming with the sun  casting bright patterns everywhere and the hills behind coming and going. I had meant to bring my camera, but had left it in the car by mistake – damn! At the end of the loch came ‘The Wall of Talla’. This climb out of the glen averages 20%, ramping up to 30% in places so it’s a slow grind up, but in the sun luckily. A really good warming up process with a fantastic swoop down on the other side past Meggat water. By now I had about 8 working fingers and enough confidence in braking to ‘go for it’ with the rest of the faster folk. Total exhilaration.

A stop at the food station by now with hands operating as per normal, with thick, thick delicious soup and other goodies. The Haddington crew went off while Jo & I waited for Ronnie. The rest of the trip was good with a couple of good climbs, one long and progressive (Berry Bush), and the other (The Witchie Knowe) steeper, with the summit always in view, sometimes not seeming to be any closer, then through the gap & down, down, down.

Ronnie & I - Tour of Tweeddale 2013, cheery as ever

Ronnie & I – Tour of Tweeddale 2013, cheery as ever

Ronnie & I were sharing the lead with Jo doing her occasional bit. But at one point I looked back & there were 8 folk on our wheels, ah well. So as in the past a great event with fabulous scenery, great company and some challenging terrain and a few new PRs. Better get in training for next year?

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Life’s illusions 2 and pet hates

Shadows on the beach

Shadows on the beach

I finally succumbed. I’ve gone totally metric.

Most of my cycling pals talk in kilometres and metres so I’ve reset my Garmin to do the same.

So do I feel faster cycling at 81.271872 kmph rather than 50.5 mph? Do I feel I’ve climbed less if I wander up the hills for 616 metres rather than 2020 feet 113132 inches? If anything the reverse. I seem to spend my time trying to convert in my head rather than just going with the new. I’m sure that this will pass and I’ll be kilometreing with the best. Gosh, it’s hell being a geek!

Another illusion is the feeling of improving. Having been improving again on the bike, suddenly yesterday it all caved in. My legs became sticks of jelly on the hills, though I was OK on the flats & downhills – as fast as ever. Most of my cycling pals all speed off up the way as I painfully rose up the ascent. And why? Haven’t a clue, maybe it’ll be better today?

Finally pet hates, I have one main one. “To die for”. Why does this irk me so? I’m not really sure. What I am sure is that there may well be things worth dying for but a hat, a pair of cycing shoes, a dress, tickets to see someone perform? The folk using this phrase would certainly not give up their lives for these. Now “To live for”, that’s a different matter altogether.

It’s life’s illusions I recall . . . . . .

With the B-Spokes

With the B-Spokes

It’s a funny thing being out on the bike. While keeping an eye on the road I also like to have a wee neb around me. As it’s usually a quickish glance, sometimes things just aren’t what they seem.

There is a narrow road I normally whizz down  at well in excess of 40 mph from the wind turbines standing at the top, like the Day of the Triffids. It suddenly becomes completely different. Happed in mist, the turbines disappear and even the sound is so muffled I don’t hear them over the slight noise of the bike & road surface. Visibility is so bad I can hardly see the guy in front and we are reduced to crawling down with brakes full on. Suddenly a monster rears up ahead, becomes a huge car with lights full on, going too fast and just missing us. Once beside us, it just appears ordinary again and our heartbeats subside. Then a hundred feet down everything clears and the road becomes normal again.

Another spot I go past, this time climbing up, appears to show an ancient standing stone. I once stopped to have a look – it turned out to be a broken tree stump, though quite high. I still often give it a nod when I pass.

One winter I was just finishing a ride, cold but pleasant and dry. As I turned the corner going slow the road was looking quite wet, almost flooded. I suddenly was on a road width skating rink. Previous snow had solidified to thick ice for about 50 feet along the road with a skim of water on top. I slid to the ground, it was hardly falling, and came gently to a stop no worse for wear but had to skate across with my bike to where the road started.

And then there’s the wildlife, huge birds swooping down to transform into crows, a massive rustling in the undergrowth that becomes a rabbit, a giant dog in a field that is really a hare. Not cycling but ski touring – coming over the top of the hills and wondering how trees could grow this high when the ‘branches’ started to move and a big herd of deer moved off.

Then there’s the illusion of speed or lack of it, sometimes I feel fast and am really pathetic when I see the stats, other times seemingly cruising along and astonished at what I’ve done.

(Added this a day or so later after cycling & thinking: The other thing is the phantom cyclist(s). You spot someone up ahead & start to twitch, ready for action, then you get closer and a fencepost with a sign attached, or a piece of something else suddenly has been morphed from that cyclist you definitely saw.)

So it’s cycling, this strange perception of time, space, weather, fauna, flora, environment etc. that changes every time I click my shoes into my pedals and go.

So, what happens to you?