Although I had aimed to keep this short and sweet because I am falling rather behind on my posts – I suppose being injured and being forced to pull out of all the races you had planned means that there isn’t much to talk about for a long spells, and I’ve become a bit slack – it would appear that I have a bit to say, despite finding the entire day rather underwhelming.
I took the train to Glasgow – very hung-over – on Saturday morning, and tried to steel my stomach against the nausea brought on by any kind of movement. Upon arrival I met Ian, and we set off to my friend Grant’s flat. Once nestled into an armchair – and joined by Grant’s brother Bruce, and his girlfriend Molly – we ordered an obscene amount of pizza to inhale before submitting ourselves to the least comfortable sofa bed in existence.
Ian, Bruce and I were up bright and early for breakfast and about an hour before our designated start time we set off on the gentle 4 mile cycle to the event start. Cycling along the nearly-abandoned streets of Glasgow as the sun rose was quite a pleasant experience, especially as our group of 3 picked up fellow cyclists during the trek.
As we had received our race packs in the mail, there was no need to register, so we slowly made our way to the start pens. A friend had decided last minute to sign up, so as he was battling queues at registration, we became increasingly frustrated, and eventually –upon discovering he was there with friends, and not alone – we opted to leave him behind.
The start was staggered, and there was pretty much nobody making sure you were entering during your allocated time, so we joined the crowd and waited for 4-5 clusters of cyclists to be set free before our time came. The sun was shining, the air was calm, and we sailed along the closed city centre roads chatting with each other. One thing that we did notice – apart from someone on a penny farthing! – was a staggering number of cyclists off to the side repairing punctures. We later found out that the course had been sabotaged by someone who threw tacks across the road, which has happened by disgruntled locals during other closed-road cycle events in Scotland. Luckily, none of us were affected, but it’s a pretty dick move by whoever was responsible.
As far as the course goes, I read it had changed slightly from the previous years, but it was generally flat for the entire 50 miles. The 2-3 short inclines were hazardous not because of how steep they were, but because of the range of cycling abilities on the day, and the inability of riders to grasp the very simple idea that keeping to the left (or any side) would probably be super helpful for people trying to cycle up a hill without their options being limited to:
- ploughing through a group of people pushing their bikes whilst having casual conversations in the middle of the road, or
- falling off their bike.
Thankfully, we all managed to crest the few hills without coming off the bikes (and remaining clipped in!), but the bottlenecks were a giant pain in the ass.
Moving swiftly on to my next complaint – the feed station at Avonbridge. We joined a queue snaking around a marquee, not fully understanding what we were queuing for, but agreeing it was probably something worthwhile. Once we finally made it to the entrance, we were met with tables full of cakes, tray bakes, cookies, etc. Standard feed station fare in Scotland. I helped myself to a cube of ginger cake and a small cookie, and Ian and Bruce grabbed a few snacks as well. At the end of the display, having already started eating, a little old lady looked expectedly at us, and then down at a money box. It was only at this point we became acutely aware that we were expected to pay for our snacks.
Neither Ian nor Bruce had any cash, and luckily I had enough to cover the 3 of us. Now, I know the whole event is to raise money for charity, but a little warning that snacks on a course that advertises food as being included in the entry price wouldn’t be an unreasonable request. Especially when you’ve hit that point where food, no matter what it is, is appealing.
Once back on our bikes, and all a bit huffy, we continued on the course, ultimately ignoring the free lunch stop as by the time we passed it, we weren’t hungry. The final 15 miles or so went by in a bit of a blur, but from about mile 40 my knee was starting to play up. We eventually started cycling on canal paths that have been used for various running events I’ve taken part in before, and the fact that I was beginning to recognize places meant the finish couldn’t be far off.
When Murrayfield stadium came into view, it was only a couple of minutes before we were crossing the finish line, unclipping, and begin handed our goody bags. To my horror, and despite the fact that in all previous years they had given out medals, I found that all finishers received an A5 certificate as a token of their triumph. Ian and Bruce sat on the grass in the sun, and I went to find my friend, Naomi, who was equally dissatisfied with the finishers’ token (especially after her longest ever cycle), but managing to drown her sorrows in an adult beverage.
There wasn’t much to hang around for, so Ian and I mounted our bikes again, setting off through Edinburgh for his sister’s house, and Bruce rested up as he had decided he would cycle along the canal back to Glasgow (he made it back just before dark!).
Finally out of the saddle, I nursed my then-aching knee, and enjoyed a cold drink in the garden before cramming everything – with the skills of a Tetris master – back into Ian’s car for the drive home.
Overall, I can see this as being a good event for people who are new to cycling, or who want to build up confidence before a sportive, but the crowds and – I can’t lie – the lack of a medal at the end have put me off doing this event again in the future, especially with the number of events that are usually on during the same weekend. I’m probably also highly critical because I am grumpy about the fact that Berlin marathon is this weekend, and it is the final race I had been signed up for that I will have to DNS. Although I wish everyone I know (including Claudia, Dan, Rhona, and many others) the best of luck on Sunday, can somebody please give me the satisfaction of breaking their leg during the race? I’m joking, obviously; I hope you all have a fantastic weekend.
Added bonus: For giggles, I’ve hidden bicycle brand names throughout this post.