When I lose, I do so graciously, mostly, but when pride is at stake I won’t go down without a fight!
I don’t think of myself as competitive, but it appears I am. I just pretend not to be. When I lose, I do so graciously, mostly, but when pride is at stake I won’t go down without a fight. Sometimes that means a bit of suffering.
The cycling club I ride with, Pentland Velo, has a time-trial challenge running for the whole of 2015. It is called the Gladhouse Challenge and is named after the reservoir along the banks of which the route runs. In mid-April I put down the fastest time on the leaderboard which stood for six weeks; until last weekend that is. My time was beaten not by just one person, but three; all on the same day. Three! Fortunately only one of these people was a fellow club member. The time of the other two, who had ridden the course as a pair, didn’t count. That was double-good as their time was the fastest. Beating the time set by a pair would be tough, if not impossible. One way or another they had to be taken down.
Having my time beaten was inevitable, it was laid down in the spring after all. There was eight more months for riders to take a shot at the title. However I was still a little bit disappointed to be knocked off the top. I’d hoped my time at number one would last at least a couple of months. Then there was the other issue of the time set by the non-members. We couldn’t have non-members at the top of the leaderboard now could we? So, four days after I was knocked off the top, I rose like a phoenix with a walking stick to take the title back.
There was just one problem… leaving the house and riding down the road I quickly realised there was a stiff South-Westerly wind. “This may not be my day to win.” I thought to myself, but I was there and ready to go.
Warming Up and Setting Off
I used the twenty minute ride to the start of the route to warm up by starting off easy and gradually increasing my speed. As I rolled up to the start line I was nicely warmed up and ready to rock. The first few minutes was a bit frantic, avoiding the traffic leaving the city and dealing with roadworks. However after a couple of kilometres I settled myself and got into a steady, but fast pace; making sure I didn’t go all-out too early. There was a long way to go.
After circumnavigating the second set of roadworks, cursing as I got stopped by two sets of traffic lights and descending down The Brae through Auchendinny it was time to take on the climb up towards Howgate.
This was the biggest climb of the route, which features after just a few kilometres. After fighting the wind to get to this far my legs were burning after just a few metres of ascending. As I climbed out of the shelter of the valley I was hit by the headwind again. Because I was climbing up towards the open moors and higher ground I was feeling the full force of the wind. I was worried. I seriously considered giving up there and then because I honestly thought that with wind that strong I wouldn’t even beat my own best time never mind anybody else’s. Then I remembered why I was here and what was at stake. I wasn’t going to back down and accept defeat. So with teeth clenched and legs burning I told myself I was going to beat these guys and charged on.
Whilst keeping an eye on my heart rate to ensure I don’t go too far over my threshold and cook my legs I kept climbing, desperate to reach the summit without losing too much time. When I crested the top of the hill I attacked as hard as I could to get back up to speed. I knew that I would get a few minutes of shelter and a bit of respite as I turned the corner and headed towards Mount Lothian.
A few kilometres down the road I would turn right on to the road to Glasshouse. At that point I would be riding straight into the wind so I used the descent from Mount Lothian to lower my heart rate a little.
…my legs were screaming and I was gritting my teeth!
Fighting the Wind
The road to Gladhouse was brutal. The combination of a strong headwind and rough road surface made the going extra tough and my legs were screaming and I was gritting my teeth! With my head down, getting as aerodynamic as I could, I was pushing with all my strength desperately trying to keep my average speed up despite the wall of wind pushing me against me.
The turn onto the banks of the reservoir is not an easy one. Being at the bottom of a steep hill and with gravel on the road meant I had to take it easy. I lost more momentum than I wanted to, but the smoother road surface I rolled onto was a welcome relief. I took a moment to take on some fluids and recompose myself. Looking at the average speed on my computer I was doing OK, but was not breaking any records. It could go either way.
As I turned away from Gladhouse Reservoir the wind was now thankfully behind me. The strong tailwind was the ideal chance to make up time lost by the big climb and headwind I had battled earlier. Time to quickly gulp down an energy gel and push on!
After a few kilometres of tailwind and descending I had increased my average speed considerably. I had used the easier conditions to my advantage and pressed on hard, but once again without going too far over my threshold. I knew the last third of the course was hard. I would, once again, be battling head winds and cross winds. There was a quite a few short sharp climbs too. All these things combine to make your legs hurt. Especially after an hour of riding hard; very hard. I would need to put aside the hurt and give it everything.
As I rode down through the village of Temple, which sits on the steep banks of the River South Esk, I had to stay on the brakes to avoid going too far over the 30 miles-per-hour speed limit. Reaching the sharp bend on the edge of the village I was still descending. I squeezed the brake levers a little harder to scrub speed before the corner. My back wheel locked up and skipped out to the side and my heart skipped a beat, but I kept control and made it round the corner safely. The resulting adrenaline was very welcome. Any extra help in maintaining my effort was not a bad thing. I used it to keep the power on and flew on towards Carrington. As I came in to the village itself I checked my average speed to see how I was doing. At that point it was 31.1km/h, which was a lot higher than I expected and I was feeling buoyant, if not tired. However I knew that I was not going to be able to maintain that until the end of the course. As well as the wind to contend with there was still the brutal wall that is the Mur de Roslin to climb!
My legs were screaming for mercy and I was nauseous from the effort.
My descent into Roslin Glen was fast. I knew it was a great opportunity to gain time. Once again locking up my brakes on one of the tight corners I riding was on the edge. My ascent out of the glen, on the Mur de Roslin, was not so quick. My legs were screaming for mercy and I was nauseous from the effort. Somehow, at the top, I managed to forget about that and push hard to get my speed back up and make a dash for the finish line. With just a few kilometres left I knew it was time to use whatever I had left to cut through the wind and finish strong.
Sprinting to the Finish
After sprinting hard to make it through the traffic lights at the roadworks, before they turned red, I was once again ignoring my burning legs and pushing and pulling the pedals round as hard as I could. Just one last effort, up the hill to the lights at Fairmilehead and I was done!
As I stopped my timer at the junction, which denoted the finish of the course I knew I had beaten my fellow club rider, but had I beaten the non-club members who currently held the number one position. I didn’t know. It wasn’t until I got home that I got my answer.
I rode home not knowing whether I had beaten the time of the two non-club riders. It wasn’t ’til I uploaded the data from my computer that I realised that I had not. I was 12 seconds short of the fastest of the two. The good news, though, I was number one in the club, which is what really mattered. Or was it? I was still a bit gutted that I was not on top overall. Even knowing that the other two had ridden as a pair, making their time harder to beat as a solo effort, I hadn’t got the top time.
I’ll have them next time!