Friday, 13 March 2015

#8 Ride around Arran (sub 5 hours)

Today I smashed 40 minutes off my previous time to cycle around Arran, and 10 minutes off my #41 Things target time of 5 hours. That's in the saddle time, because if you can't stop for cake in the numerous delightful teashops on Arran then whats the point?

It wasn't easy, and took large quantities of what should probably be a controlled substance: caffeine, as well as copious amounts of sugar. The darkest point of the ride was probably on the final pull up the final hill out of Brodick, when I realised that after all that pushing hard up the Boguille Pass, all the chasing of average speeds in to a headwind, and all that frenzied double latte gulping, my time margin was slipping away from me and I started to doubt I could do it. But the brow of the hill came just in time, and I set a PR on the descent in to Lamlash.

It's not a particularly spectacular time- but its a big deal for me. I put off my first ride around Arran for years, despite it being a popular circuit with visiting roadies, because as a local I know all about the dreaded hilly Southend, the pot holes, the bad drivers and the headwinds. It's a lot harder than the 90 km circuit looks on paper. Since I set that first time of five and half hours, I've been wondering if I could do it any faster, and this year, have been putting in a bit of training, with double Boguille and Ross road climbing sessions, and taking my mountainbike out in the woods. Today was only the second time I've ridden around the island in full.

The received wisdom is to take on the Southend first. It's a lot worse than it looks on the map, with endless rolling hills, and it's good to get it out of the way with fresh legs.  Nevertheless I nearly cried when I saw Sliddery Hill rearing up towards me today- I'd forgotten about that one and it is vicious.  The descent in to Blackwaterfoot is glorious however, especially with a stretch of new tarmac to enjoy. From there, its a happy amble to the Machrie Bay Tea Room, where sticky cakes await.

My old school bike,  AKA: The Bumblebee

My plan was to grind out a bit of speed between Machrie and Lochranza, but the "gentle northerly" turned out to be pretty brisk, and slowed things down quite a bit.  There is a short sharp shock of a hill at Imachar, but it is over pretty quickly, and lovely coastline to enjoy around the north west of the island. After Lochranza, the Boguille Pass terrifies everyone, but I quite like it.  The summit is a wild and beautiful place, where you can watch golden eagles, buzzards and hen harriers, whilst admiring the rocky peaks of the Sleeping Warrior.

Staring down the barrel of the Boguille.

Brodick Bay basking in the spring sunshine

I was happy to find the breeze on my tail as I negotiated the straights of Sannox and Corrie, putting in some unexpected PRs.  By the start of Brodick Hill I was buzzing.  But that hill is never fun, and from the Brodick side, the steep climb up from the ferry terminal always saps my strength. It's a steady grind after that, and with tired legs it is hard to get out of bottom gear, so I watched my time on the clock ebb away. The legendary Jens Voigt had "shut up legs" written on his top tube to motivate him on climbs.  My legs are pretty chatty, saying things like "Wheee" and "Grrr!" and occasionally "Ow".  Its when they go quiet that I worry. On Brodick Hill they started to feel like silent lumps of clay.  I was relieved to get to the top at last, and then whizz down in to Lamlash and the finish line.

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