I’ve always refer to south of central Scotland as the ‘Borders’ having been brought up there as a kid, but a more accurate term would be the Southern Uplands. This is also the name given to the 400km Audax organized by Matin Foley, and as part of TCR training I decided to find out what a distance event like this would be like.
The answer was ‘tough’. Especially as the weather played its hand with a stiff headwind for the first 200km, including a chunky 5000m of climbing thrown in for good measure. The situation didn’t change much after half way either, with crosswinds causing a distraction heading up the beautiful Glentrool to Maybol. However, at least the climbs were sheltered even if the descents were not!
Teaming up from the halfway point with Doug (who was also training for the TCR), we had time to discuss tactics and were surprised that our pace was not too far off the seasoned randonneurs with the lead guys leaving Abington services around midnight just as we arrived.
Prior to this, the long expected tailwind on the journey east from Maybole failed to materialize and we had to content ourselves with straightforward pedaling as we rolled through the evening and the hills and villages of Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire. Not being sure what to expect, I’d taken some sleep gear in case of a slow pace, but on reaching Abington services with around 60km to go, we knew we’d make it back without stopping.
Refueled with a Starbucks toasted wrap and hot chocolate, we were pleased to discover the wind had increased again and were treated to the first tailwind of the day as we headed into the dark, this time on familiar roads. This final part of the journey was a relative pleasure as we ploughed on through the dark taking only two hours and 20 minutes to cover the final 60km. It was a bit surreal to cruise along deserted roads in the wee small hours, either side of the white lines, dynamo lights leading the way.
Reaching the highpoint above Edinburgh around 3am, a faint glow could be seen above the distant city lights meaning that daybreak was not far away. Heading downhill from this point we arrived at Musselburgh 24 hour Tesco at 3:20am, having left the same spot at 6am the previous morning. We headed into Tesco to obtain proof of our finish and being tired all I could decide on to eat was a packet of crisps. We munched on our snacks and sat and chatted to the store manager as a couple of drunk girls tottered about the store in their party outfits.
In total the ride had taken 21:20 minutes to cover around 250 miles and it was a good test to see how training was going. Some of the climbs were tough towards the end, but I never felt that I was bonking and always had the energy to get over what felt like yet another hill.
The Stoater still working well and I’m falling more in love with it each time I’m on a long ride. The tubeless Schwalbe One tyres have been a revelation too, running fast on the smooth and soaking up the rough with confidence.
Unfortunately I’m still having problems on the Garmin front, but have discovered that it really doesn’t like recording after 300kms and this can cause it to crash and refuse to restart. Not very convenient in the dark and in the middle of nowhere. . . Seems like the solution to stop recording after this distance, then reset and start recording again. You can then ‘stitch’ the files together on computer in a text editor if you needed complete information. I guess another 300km plus ride is needed to see what happens!