Ah, annual leave. A chance to do a multitude of things away from the stresses of day to day work. Perhaps you take off to a far flung destination to bask in glorious sunshine or choose to pack your bike and tent, kids, dogs and mother-in-law into the car and head off for a rain soaked and midge bitten week in the wilds.
I decided to do neither of these things this week and instead took the rare opportunity to catch up on my training and relax at home. And it has been wonderful. I started on Saturday with a return to Duke’s Pass and Loch Katrine and thankfully rediscovered the joy of cycling without a niggling calf pain, but why is that no matter what direction you ride in the wind is always in your face?!
Another fantastic 50 miles on Sunday saw me back with my GGCC family for the first time in two months - oh how I’ve missed the ‘banter’!! Monday involved a spot of gardening in the sun and a wee spin class to ease off the legs, then Tuesday, well Tuesday was a bit different. Sometimes days come along that just restore your faith in humanity and leave you in awe of the feat of human endeavor. Tuesday was one of those days.
"Cycling with strangers who become friends over the toil of the miles is what I love so much about this sport"
I recently read a poster in the gym about two guys undertaking a six day challenge to cycle and run from Inverness to Dumfries visiting every Scottish Bannatynes gym on the way. That’s 105 miles cycling from Inverness to Aberdeen, another 95 miles from Aberdeen to Perth on day two, a wee 35 mile run from Perth to Dunfermline on day three, back on the bikes for 63 miles from Dunfermline around Edinburgh, Livingston and on to Falkirk on day four, an 18 mile run between Falkirk and Stepps before cycling 40 miles onto Ayr on day five and the final 65 miles from Ayr to Dumfries on day six to complete the challenge and all to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and Sands, two charities very close to their hearts.
I got in touch via the wonders of ‘the social network’ and asked if I could join them. Thankfully they didn’t think I was an axe murderer and agreed. And so it was that we set off on a beautiful sunny morning from Ayr and climbed, and climbed and climbed through the stunning Ayrshire countryside on towards Dumfries.
Unfortunately the clouds closed in at mile 38 and we pushed on through battering wind and rain to the finish line. It was tough going, I rued my decision to leave the overshoes at home but, perversely, it was one of the most fun days of cycling I have had.
Cycling with strangers who become friends over the toil of the miles is what I love so much about this sport, and to witness the end point of such a challenge for two self confessed ‘runners, not cyclists’ brought back to me the feeling I had when we reached the Eiffel Tower at the end of London to Paris last July. Albeit a little soggier and a little colder I still had the same warmth in the old cockles of the heart!