Stonehaven Midsummer Beer Happening Inaugural Sportive

Time: 6:33:56 [Results]

Medal: No, but all finishers received free entry to the beer festival, a commemorative glass, one beer token, a t-shirt, and a goody bag.

The sun even came out at the end!

The sun even came out at the end!

About a month ago, an event popped up on Facebook that piqued my interest, but I soon forgot about it because I didn’t want to enter another event that I wouldn’t make.  I have DNS’s every single race I was entered in for in 2015 so far, and apart from the colossal waste of money, it feels like you’re missing out on something even more if you’d actually planned to take part.  I’ve stopped scrolling through pages of event listings late at night because there’s just no point.  I’ve basically become normal.

However.

Last week, somebody posted a link to the entry page, and a group of girls I know from Fleet Feet were talking about entering and riding as a group.  The event?  A 72 mile cycle sportive starting and ending in Stonehaven, taking in the ominous Cairn o’Mount – twice.

midsummer beer happening routeBefore anything had been confirmed, I thought I’d get the ball rolling and signed up.  Having never tackled Cairn o’Mount before, I thought what better way to do so than doing it twice in a row?  Unfortunately, it soon became clear that everyone who had been talking about it was busy, so I bullied coerced Claudia into signing up, as she’s training for Ride the North and I thought it would appeal to her.  Also, she’s one of the few people crazy enough to sign up to a 72 mile sportive on a whim.

Fast forward to Saturday morning, and it was clear from the deadpan greeting, the heavy sighs, and cold, hateful glares that Claudia was ecstatic that I had convinced her this was a good idea.  This and the heavy rain lashing down around us as we secured the bikes to the rack on the back of her car couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  I wasn’t going to DNS today!!

We arrived in Stonehaven just after 9, and registered amongst very professional looking male cyclists in club gear with tan lines that told of tough days out on the bikes.  And then we saw Phil Mann, armed with whiskey miniatures, and knew that all was right in the world again.  He asked us if we’d ridden over Cairn o’Mount many times before, and we both said ‘Never’.  He just laughed at us, because he understands our kind.  This is a man who ran Amsterdam marathon last year, stopping for a pint every 10k or so.  He finished drunk.

Just before 10, we met at the start point.  Phil had some whiskey.  Claudia accepted some whiskey.  I declined the whiskey because I do not share drinking receptacles, and whiskey tastes about as good as nail polish remover smells like it would taste. I was comforted when the marshal confirmed that the sweep vehicle was not of the ‘pull-slow-riders-off-the-course’ variety, but more the ‘we-are-here-if-things-go-badly-wrong’ type.

There was a low-key countdown before our wave set off.  And up.  I think now is a relatively good time to include the elevation profile:

midsummer beer sportive elevationClaudia and I got off to a steady start, but I was already in my lowest gear leaving Stonehaven, which did not bode well.  Curse you, compact chainset!  Cresting the top of the first hill was delightful, as was the subsequent downhill section.  The second hill was fine as well, as I’ve cycled it several times before and knew what to expect.  It’s a steady, but not steep, climb to the stone circle at the top, and then a smooth descent past Knockburn Loch.  After this, however, it was into the unknown.

The roads were undulating for a while here and soon we were upon the Glen Dye AA box, where Claudia and I decided we should have a quick stop to eat something.  I had half a chia charge bar, a swig of my water, and was set to go.  It was about this time some of the faster wave riders had started to overtake us, with sickening ease.  Before long, Claudia and I were paddling in their wake.

Shortly after reaching the snow gates, Claudia told me to go on ahead as she was having issues with her gears.  I told her I would meet her at the top.  And so it began – the long, arduous task of climbing Cairn o’Mount.  There were two or three fairly steep sections requiring some out-of-the-saddle action, but overall, it was just a steady slog uphill, and I reached the summit without having to push my bike.

As it was windy and cold, and I couldn’t see Claudia on the road below anywhere, I decided to press on to the aid station and wait for her there.  The downhill section was a mixture of excitement and butt-clenching terror, reaching a top speed of 42.9mph despite liberal brake application throughout.  At one point, I squeezed on the brakes to no apparent effect, but the slop was vertical at this point, so I’m not really surprised.  Despite my life being in grave danger at this point, all I could think was Holy shit, I’m going to have to cycle back up this thing soon.

Thankfully, I survived to the bottom, only to be met by a very sharp left hand turn, and a very steep (12% I think) short hill to wake the legs up after their brief vacation.  The road continued to undulate as I looked expectantly for the aid station.  After about 10 miles, a white tent came into view.  It was surrounded by lycra-clad men and road bikes lying in the grass.  I texted Claudia to ask how she was getting on and let her know where I was, then gave myself about ten minutes to have the other half of my chia charge bar and half a banana, as well as re-fill one of my water bottles and chuck in an electrolyte tab.  There was a restaurant with facilities to use, but with no sign from Claudia, I opted to just get on with it.  I had one last big stretch, and hopped onto the bike for round 2.

From the base of Cairn o’Mount we took a circular route via Auchenblae, and the section after the refreshment stop was much flatter in the approach to the base of the climb.  It was a gentle way to re-heat the legs in preparation for the task ahead.  And then it was upon me.

From the start you are met with some fairly steep inclines, and my butt was out of the seat from the word go.  I was struggling so much I had to dismount and start walking for the few seconds it took me to realize I wasn’t actually in my lowest gear.  Dumbass.  I saddled up, clipped in, and set off again, at a crushing speed of about 4mph.  This was definitely the steeper side and even the riders in club gear looked like they were cycling through molasses.

The only saving grace was the fact that you could see the parking section near the summit, so you had a visual idea of how much farther you had to go.  There was also someone paragliding, which provided approximately 3 seconds worth of distraction from the heavy legwork.

WHY IS THERE NO LOWER GEAR?!?!

I’m not even ashamed to admit that just before I reached the Parking area near the top I was in danger of going so slowly I would topple over, so I dismounted again and pushed the final steep section.  Thankfully, I was not alone.  At the top, I decided to take a quick photo since there was no wind, and it was actually kind of warm.

IMG_20150620_174046

The view!

The view!

I also noticed that Claudia had replied with: On my way to Stonehaven.  I interpreted this as: I have passed the refreshment area and am on the return leg.  I gave an enthusiastic reply, and said I’d see her at the finish.  And then I enjoyed the lovely, lovely downhill section of the not-so-steep side of Cairn o’Mount.  Bliss.

The section up until Knockburn Loch is a bit of a blur, and for a moment I thought I had zoned out and missed a turn-off as I hadn’t seen any riders in ages.  But then I saw a poppy that I had noticed on the outward journey, and knew I was on track.  I stopped for a photo, and a few riders went by, so I felt a bit better.

IMG_20150620_212646The penultimate hill felt tougher than it should have.  By this point I had cycled 50+ miles, and my shoulders were starting to ache (of all things).  The penultimate descent was bittersweet; I was grateful for a bit of a rest, but also fully aware that I had the Slug road left to conquer before I could really relax.

Sure enough, the Slug road was a lot tougher than when I’ve cycled it with relatively fresh legs, and at one point I pulled over to check the map on my phone to see just how much farther I had before I reached the finish (about 7 miles, apparently).  It was at this point I noticed a message from Claudia: I’m at Stonehaven.  This wasn’t a good sign.  I let her know I was about to hit the last downhill section on the Slug road, and that I’d see her soon.

FINALLY, I hit the top, and the view of the sea in the distance meant one thing: it was all downhill from here!  I was in my heaviest gear, desperate to get to Stonehaven and enjoy a cold adult beverage.  The war memorial came into view.  I’m not even lying, I shed a tear, I was so happy.  ‘Welcome to Stonehaven’ flashed by on the left, I was in town, there were houses around me, there was the festival, nearly at the finish!  Two left hand turns to go!  One!  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, done!

I stayed on my bike and cycled right to the entrance of the beer tent, floating by people queuing to get in.  I ditched my bike, handed in my number, got my glass, and – perhaps most importantly – my beer token, and headed straight for the bar.

There was a colossal range of beer on offer, and I know zero about craft beer other than I generally don’t like it.  It was busy, and one of the guys at the bar started chatting to me while we were waiting.  He asked how far I had cycled, how long it had taken me, and seemed genuinely impressed.  I told him I had just finished and was keen to spend my free beer token on a well earned, and much anticipated drink.  And then, when one of the bartenders came over to us, that son-of-a-bitch ordered himself a drink.  When a bartender finally got round to me, all I could respond with was, “I don’t care, something refreshing and cold,” when asked what I wanted.  Whatever she picked, it was a fabulous choice.  I think it was something fruity, it was definitely cold, and it was very crisp.

I found Claudia, limping, and found out that during a gear change, her chain came off and she had taken a tumble.  She was covered in bruises, swelling, and disappointment.  She told me how she had made it to the aid station, and then opted to bypass Cairn o’Mount a second time, and take a shorter, flatter route back to Stonehaven, eventually getting picked up by one of the marshals and taken to the finish with a couple of others.  She did say that there were a few people who opted to skip Cairn o’Mount for a second time by taking the more direct route back.  Having passed the sign saying ‘Stonehaven – 12′, I’ll admit I understand the temptation!

It’s now the morning after, and, to my surprise, my legs feel fine.  My shoulders and triceps are a bit stiff, and I’m working on some bitchin’ tan lines, but other than that, it looks like, despite no endurance running for months, I can still hack 6+ hours on the go without paying for it the next day, which is encouraging.

IMG_20150620_225753I might just casually peruse some event listings tonight…

“It’s OK, it won’t be that tiring, the route is pretty flat.”

Exactly a week from now, I will (hopefully) have finished my third marathon.  Now, I still can’t really claim to be an expert on executing the perfect 26.2 mile race, but there are a few things I have learned from number one and number two.  There is one thing that sticks in my mind more than the rest, however, and that is:

1. Tapering is important

After a gruelling training schedule, it’s apparently a good idea to give your body a break to allow it to rest and heal.  The idea behind this is to leave you refreshed for the race without having lost much in the way of fitness.  The first time I ran Loch Ness marathon, I naively assumed that two days rest was enough.  But then, I also thought a 17.5 and a 20 mile run was sufficient for my long run quote.  Ha!  Let’s all laugh at my foolishness.  We’d all be beacons of success with hindsight, right?  If you have time to kill, you can always go back and read the long version, but the short version is: my first marathon was a pain I’d never experienced before.  With that in mind, you might think I had learned my lesson.

***

On Friday night, Ian and I (and our road bikes) made our way to Forres once again to see Dylan.  After a hearty dinner and a good night’s sleep, we woke up to pretty acceptable weather; there were patches of blue sky to be seen, cats weren’t being hurled horizontally through the air by gales, and opening the living room window did not cause frostbite within seconds.

Ian had planned a 66 mile loop from Forres, to Grantown-on-Spey, and then back.  With the marathon looming on the horizon, I was initially hesitant to agree to such a long cycle, but Ian ASSURED ME THAT THE ROUTE WAS FLAT, and shrugged it off as a relatively leisurely route, so I agreed to go along.

Here is a rough, Google mapping of the route:

1277075_10151848072535589_1847716436_o

We set off merrily in the sunshine (not to last), and got onto the quiet and scenic back roads as quickly as we could.  From a starting elevation of about 25 feet above sea level, I was not amused to watch this number climb steadily for the first 10 miles or so.  And then dip.  And then climb again.  I was even less amused to see this become a recurring theme on our “FLAT” journey, because my heart rate told me I was absolutely not taking part in a leisurely ride.

Even less thrilling was eventually realizing we were on a long, exposed road with a strong, chilly headwind with no sign of an end for miles.  Oh, and a steady climb, of course.  We got a nice view of some impressive hills in the distance, but overall it seemed pretty barren, and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself since my toes were so cold I couldn’t really feel them any more.

Finally, we turned off the road, and I watched our elevation start to dip.  The trees gave us a bit of shelter from the wind, and it became noticeably warmer the lower we got, until eventually I was enjoying myself again.  After about 34 miles, we had arrived in Grantown-on-Spey, where we had planned to stop for a hot drink and something to eat before the slightly shorter leg home.  A tuna and cheese toastie and a hot chocolate later, I was a bit warmer, and in better spirits.

Knowing the way back was (marginally) shorter than the first section made the ache from pushing uphill on cold muscles easier to bear, and despite a couple of steep sections, the way back seemed like a piece of cake!  The sky had become overcast, and the warmth from the sun had pretty much disappeared, but because we weren’t as exposed, and the wind was behind us, it didn’t seem so bad.

About 8 miles from Forres, we cycled through ‘Dallas’, and the Texan in me felt it was totally necessary to get a photo:

2013-09-21 15.05.43Dylan was obviously feeling left out:

2013-09-21 15.05.40

 

There was also a castle (or the remains of one) just around the corner from here, so Ian, ‘Castle Master’, requested a shot:

2013-09-21 15.11.07

 

For some reason, Dylan and I were not begging for a photo next to this historic pile of bricks, and we set off on the last few miles of our loop.

Back in Forres, I was keen to get into a warm shower while Ian put the bike rack back on the car and loaded up the bikes. My Garmin read 66.35 miles for the journey with a total elevation gain of over 3,000 feet.  Which is over 1,000 meters.  Which is the equivalent of cycling up a munro (Scottish mountain) and then back down again.

Last time I checked, hiking up a mountain was not flat.

 

Crathes 1/2 marathon 2013

Time: 1:57:01 [RESULTS HERE]

Medal: Yes

Crathes 1/2 marathon medal

Crathes 1/2 marathon medal

Crathes half marathon was earmarked in my diary as my last longish training run before Loch Ness, so I wasn’t particularly concerned about my time.  In fact, I was aiming for around 2:05 as I had coerced Ronnie into cycling from Aberdeen to the start line, running the half, and then cycling back – roughly a 35 mile round trip on the bikes.  And because some people are scum, I didn’t really fancy leaving my belongings (change of clothes, wallet, phone, keys, food, water, random crap) hanging off my bike, so opted to wear my rucksack during the run.  So basically, I have no idea how I managed to run my fastest half marathon of the year.

I woke up at about 6:30 for a shower, and noticed that walking was painful.  Having stopped doing my regular weights workouts about three months ago because I’ve been having issues with my abs (long, annoying story I won’t subject you to because I get really frustrated when I think about it), it was maybe not the wisest idea to partake in a weights class on the Thursday, opting for the weights I regularly would have because I cannot handle having less weight than somebody in a weights class (at least if it’s an after school activity, and half the class are teenage girls).  Even before I was squatting and lunging like my life depended on it, I was thinking this is dumb, Rachel.  Why do you keep doing dumb things?  I hate you.  My more competitive voice was just shouting MORE WEIGHT WEAK HUMAN!  I guess we know who won that argument.

After my shower, I confirmed with Ronnie that cycling was still on, because the forecast was good, and I felt that with winter looming we needed to take advantage of clear skies while we still could.  We met at Ian’s at about 9, and set off about 15 minutes later into a chilly headwind.  Taking the back roads from Peterculter meant no annoying traffic, but it did mean a few slight undulations to warm up the legs.  I was surprised at how fine my legs felt on the bike, and I had hoped that I would feel fabulous after my warm up.  Ha.

I mainly took this photo for the police, should someone steal our bikes.

I mainly took this photo for the police, should someone steal our bikes.

Once we arrived at Crathes, we locked up our bikes and Ian sped off back home to do some yard work and weights.  Sadly, when I stepped off my bike I still felt like a cripple, so I just tried to remind myself that I got through the Forfar 1/2 marathon, and the Dundee 1/2 marathon this year in a similar level of pain.  I was not anticipating an easy couple of hours when I registered and collected my t-shirt.

It was kind of cold, so I threw on my old favourite hoodie.  The one I used to wear practically every day.  When I looked more like this, and it was ‘fitted’:

Fat people + hot weather = unpleasant

Fat people + hot weather = unpleasant

Apparently wearing clothing that sits on you like a tent isn’t very flattering, so you’ll just have to take my word that I don’t look this fat in real life, but that my legs are indeed my worst feature.  So I’m extra excited that they are accentuated in this group shot:

Back row (l-r): Naomi, me, Shona, Susan, Ann, Maz.  Front row (l-r): Suzy, June, Lesley

Back row (l-r): Naomi, me, Shona, Susan, Ann, Maz. Front row (l-r): Suzy, June, Lesley

We had our obligatory bathroom breaks, before settling into the crowd at the start line.  The countdown happened, and we started pretty much on time, before shuffling over the starting line.  Ronnie and I were running together, and we remarked on our rather admirable pace in the first mile and a half.  Expecting to burn out early, we restrained ourself to a more conservative pace until just after 2 miles, when Ronnie started experiencing pain and cramping in his calf.  After it worsened for another minute, I told him to walk and stretch it out, which we did.  After about a minute, I asked if he was ready to run again, but he did not look happy, and told me a couple of times to just go on.  Once he said he was sure, I took off, and that’s the last time I saw him until he finished.

The course was undulating, but there are no shocker hills to attack, so it’s just a case of pushing on until you get a little downhill break.  My pack felt kind of heavy, and the sun had come out, so I had definitely warmed up.  I still looked down at my garmin to see a pace that I thought would last until maybe 7 or 8 miles before I began to struggle, but though to hell with it and kept going.  I think the fact that the route is along back roads as well as country tracks kept it interesting enough for me not to obsess over checking my pace too often, but was pleasantly surprised every time I looked down.

At about ten miles, we were directed onto a second off road track, and it’s here that I remember starting to overtake quite a few people, but I was feeling fine.  In fact, it wasn’t until just before mile 12 that I started to hurt.  My bag straps were digging into my neck, and my legs started to feel heavy, but by this point I knew that all I’d need to do to get a sub 2 time is stay under 10 minute miles.  Just to be safe, I pushed on a bit.  Exactly what I should be doing two weeks before a marathon, I’m sure.  I passed Kate (who seemed to be full of energy and encouraging a couple of club members to the finish), and made it my mission to catch up to whoever was in front of me.  Then whoever was in front of them.  Ad nauseum.

I remembered a long and punishing uphill section from about mile 12 last year, but I didn’t really notice too much of a hill this year (that’s got to be a good sign – thank you trail workouts).  Before I knew it, I was turning left onto the service entrance for Crathes Castle and knew this race was as good as done.  Elated, I sped down the grassy finish chute and across the line, stopping my Garmin (I remembered!) and hobbling over the the people cutting off the chips from our laces.  Hobbling is pretty accurate.  My legs hated me.

I waited for Ronnie to come in, and then waited for some of our other friends, most notably Suzy who was running her first half marathon and came in just over 2 and a half hours.  I also met a Claire, a girl I’ve interacted a bit with online, and who is also running Loch Ness in two weeks.  Apparently she spent the whole race using me as a pacer without knowing who I was.  I also had a very pretty lady come up and ask if I was ‘medal slut’ and I’m sure I was completely awkward, so if you’re reading then I am very flattered and felt like a rock star, but I am also kind of crap when I’m put on the spot, so I hope I didn’t come across as a creep!

After everyone had come in, Ronnie and I resigned ourselves to the fact that we now had to cycle back home, so we packed up, unlocked our bikes, and set off, passing some of the final finishers and shouting encouragement as we cycled past.  Luckily, our route home took in parts of the course, and we happened upon an unmanned water station.  Ronnie took full advantage of the already opened bottles and filled up his own stash:

Ronnie, modelling this year's fetching turquoise shirt.

Ronnie, modelling this year’s fetching turquoise shirt.

Despite a few angry moments as we came back into town – there were road works going on and a few of the drivers didn’t seem to understand the significance of a cycle lane – we made it home unscathed, and I was glad to get cleaned up and out of sweaty clothes.

I wouldn’t hesitate to run this again next year, as the course is pretty fast and varied, it’s close enough to cycle to (Ronnie will hate me again next year), and I love the t-shirt:

IMG_20130915_072217

Cycling is the new black.

But for some people, cycling is the new black circa 1850’s America.  Something that they are disgusted by as they drive their big, modified, white Subaru. Cyclists mean they can’t drive at 60mph in a 30mph zone with their douchey trance music offending the ears of anyone within a half mile radius, but rather, they have to slow down to nearly within the speed limit which is just such a freaking inconvenience.

In case it wasn’t becoming quite obvious that I have had a bit of an incident recently, I’ll just confirm that during an otherwise pleasant countryside cycle with Ian on Sunday, a fat bag of dicks that only just came into my sight once I had set off from a T-junction (with plenty of time for me to move the 3 meters forwards in order to be out of his lane), decided that he was so affronted by my being on the road that he deliberately sped up, and thought it appropriate to shout out of his window that I was a “fucking idiot” as he sped past me in the opposite direction.

I know I was not in the wrong: I looked both ways before I set off, and when the driver zoomed into view he was going far too fast.  But that doesn’t mean that his thoughtless comment hasn’t annoyed me for the last few days.  I somehow doubt he would be so vocal if he wasn’t in a big metal box that I could never catch up with, especially with Ian there too.  I guess part of it annoys me because no matter how careful and considerate  the majority of cyclists and drivers are, there will always be the few (of both) that think they own the road and have a serious grudge against anyone else using it that they don’t feel is worthy of sharing their space.  As long as they stay in the minority, we’re good.

Taking a break to check out a stone circle in the woods.

Taking a break to check out a stone circle in the woods.

Ian + rocks

Ian + rocks

Falls of Feugh, near Banchory

Falls of Feugh, near Banchory

The Falls of Feugh are pretty popular this time of year as you can stand on the bridge and watch salmon attempt to get upstream.  Ian and I saw a few make a good attempt, but fail to get up the falls successfully.  After a near miss, we decided to head off, which is when I met Mr. White Subaru.

Have any of you had bad experiences cycling?  Or are you a driver that has had a bad encounter with a cyclist?  Why do you think some drivers hate cyclists, and some cyclists hate drivers?

 

All Quiet on the Scottish Front

Note:  I’m an English teacher, I’m allowed to create cheesy titles for my posts.

Now that my spring running schedule is coming to an end, I find I have a lot more free time at the weekends.  I had promised to Ian that I would go light on the summer races, since there is a chance Scotland will get some palatable weather and we can do outdoorsy stuff together, (and there is a greater chance that if I don’t keep to my word I’ll return home one day to find my belongings shredded and burnt) and I have been fairly vigilant at keeping myself in check.  The last two weekends have been race free, and, delightfully, the weather has been amazing.  This has resulted in a couple more outings on the road bikes.

Two weeks ago we were joined by one of Ian’s friends who was riding on his mountain bike (and suffering as Ian and I glided along the road effortlessly).  Once out of Aberdeen, we took the quiet back roads to Banchory, where we each enjoyed an ice-cream before heading back.  It was such a glorious day that I have pretty much ensured my ridiculous lycra tan will be a permanent fixture this year.  Again.

This past Sunday, despite being a bit cooler and cloudier, we took the road bikes out again, this time just me and Ian.  We took a similar route in the beginning, but continued on to Dunecht (where I ran a 5k a few weeks ago), and then on to Castle Fraser, where we stopped for a slice of cake (me), a scone (Ian), and some orange juice.  As I headed to the toilet after our treat, I overheard a human beluga that had also been indulging in the tea room tell her equally corpulent friend that it would be “a long drive back to Aberdeen” and they should maybe use the toilet and get a treat for the journey.  For reference, it is about a 20 mile drive back to Aberdeen along the main roads.  I was speechless.

Outside Castle Fraser

Outside Castle Fraser

Aberdeen to Crathes Castle route

Aberdeen to Castle Fraser route

Aberdeen to Castle Fraser elevation

Aberdeen to Castle Fraser elevation

I have also been pretty quiet recently because I have endured enjoyed a school trip to London for a week with 40 teenagers who appear to be immune to fatigue.  And silence.  Having lived in London a few times, I always find it kind of nice to go back and see familiar places.  It was not kind of nice to spend 12 hours on a bus getting there, and I’m pretty sure ‘butt-cramp’ is a very real affliction.

Anyway, we got to go on the London Eye and scope out several of London’s landmarks, we went shopping in Camden Town (my old haunt) and Covent Garden, took in a few shows (Billy Elliot was amazing), visited the zoo, survived the London Dungeons, and had a day trip to Thorpe Park, where I remembered how much rickety roller coaster hurt your head.

Tiger having a snooze at London zoo

Tiger having a snooze at London zoo

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

Big ass moth

Big ass moth

Penguins

Penguins

Caricature from Covent Garden

Caricature from Covent Garden

We also accidentally stumbled upon the premier for The Hangover 3 which was extremely exciting for many of the teenage girls since apparently Bradley Cooper is a “total babe!” and “OMG so hot!”.  I tried to convince them that he wouldn’t be there yet, but they asked me to look over the crowds, so I wedged myself between a couple of hysterical fans at the barrier and, sure enough, Mr. Cooper was about 6 feet away.  I told the girls he was pretty much within spitting distance, and then took turns ushering kids towards the barrier and holding them up under their armpits so they could get a look.  I snapped a photo to show the kids that had missed out, and then made my way back to the rest of the group, as we were kind of meant to be heading to the theatre.

Bradley Cooper at the Hangover 3 premier in London

Bradley Cooper at the Hangover 3 premier in London

Bradley Cooper - still at the premier for the Hangover 3 in London

Bradley Cooper – still at the premier for the Hangover 3 in London

Although I did take my running stuff to London, I was still pretty miserable and ill for the first couple of days, and only managed to get out once for an enjoyable 8 miles along the Thames.  Early starts, chaperoning kids, walking around the city/theme park, and late nights after the theatre kind of take it out of you, and by the end, I was pretty glad to be back in my own bed.

The Shard

The Shard

Big Ben

Big Ben

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

Red phone box and the London Eye in the background

Red phone box and the London Eye in the background

Scottish summer arrives, road bike (and shoulders) sees daylight!

For the first time this year (and possibly for the first time in the last 5 years), we had a glorious weekend in Scotland.  It was warm enough for me to address my t-shirt tan situation in an unflattering green tank top, and when I looked towards the sky I saw the colour blue, instead of the familiar grey!  I had already agreed with Ian that I would accompany him on a drive into the countryside on the Sunday for a few hours, but I took full advantage of the sunlight, and met a friend for ten glorious, sunny miles at 6:30am.  I can absolutely get on board with being a morning person in weather that doesn’t suck.

After a quick shower, and bundled up, Ian picked me up in his 1954 MG TF, and we set off into the Scottish countryside with the top down.  It was pretty windy, especially when we started climbing up some of the hills, but it was too sunny to care.  We saw all of the lambs basking in the daylight, and even came across an escapee on the road, who thankfully wandered off to the side:

Keep moo-ving

Keep moo-ving

We stopped for lunch in Dufftown and started to head back soon afterwards, getting back to Aberdeen at about half past 3.  Considering one of the few perks of living so far North is the fact that we get longer days as summer approaches (estimated sunset time was just after 9pm), we both decided to take advantage of this freak weather, and go for a proper ride on our road bikes.  14.5 miles later, we were back for dinner and an early night.

I was lucky enough to have the Monday off (Ian was not), so I went for a 5 mile run and did some weights at the gym in between spring cleaning my apartment (with the windows open!), and again, the day was beautiful.  Instead of going to spin class in the evening, I ditched the indoor workout and joined Ian for another go on the road bikes.  This time we managed about 25 miles on the rolling hills outside of Aberdeen, making it back just before sunset, at which point Ian devoured everything edible in sight.

Water break

Water break

Losing daylight

Losing daylight

IMG_20130508_164505Despite the silent protest of my undercarriage at the amount of time it has been in an unfamiliar saddle, the rest of me is now even more excited about the 40 mile Granite Cycle challenge next month.  At least, I was excited until I got home after work to an e-mail regrettably informing me that the event has been called off due to poor participation numbers (I think there were only 37 sign ups, and as it’s a charity event, the financial loss they would make is too big to allow it to go ahead).  Unfortunately, normal weather service has resumed, and I can report that it is currently raining, and I had to turn my heating on all day at work.

Road Bike Outing: Day 2

Road Bike Outing: Day 2

Still, 55 miles in 2 days ain’t bad.  And at least we got a summer in Scotland this year – here’s to 2014!