Gertrude, Sister Of Bawbag

I suppose this had better be about the weather…

In the days before storms were branded with silly names, just so we could more like America, a Scottish storm was just a big bunch of rain and a hoolie.

Or Friday as it’s normally known.

This is feckin’ winter for gawd’s sake. We expect wind, we expect rain, we even expect snow. What we don’t expect is a stupid name when a gust of wind goes above 50 miles an hour.

Thank fuck the ordinary punters got in first and called the proper storm Bawbag. This is how we do storms in Scotland

OMG, Trampoline”

And we get on our bikes.

Let me explain because I know a lot of people thought I was off my trolley this morning (remember I crashed into one in 2014)…

I’ve ridden that road 512 times since the 19th August 2013. And I never go the same route twice in a row if I can help it. I know just about every back road through the houses at the top end of Newton Mearns, and I certainly know every metre of the tarmac landscape between Stewarton and Mearns Cross, including all the potholes. I also know the weather. Call me a pedant, I really don’t mind, but ever since we went on holiday to Tiree in 2012, I’ve been a huge fan of the weather. Indeed, is it actually part of the subplot of LCFN that on the evening that Celtic played Cliftonville in the European Cup (sic) qualifiers, that was the night that I discovered Windguru? Windguru is the best weather app out there. Period. I knew last Sunday that Friday (today) was gonna be a wild one. I just didn’t need to give it a silly name.

Well get this: I’m gonna call Monday’s storm Henry. You heard it first. Henry is Gerty’s big brother: but meaner.

I digress.

I knew when I crawled out of bed at 04:53 this morning, it would be blowing at 40mph, gusting 55 from the south west. I also know, because I live there, that Stewarton lies south west of Glasgow. This was always going to be a tale gale of epic proportions. I’ve ridden the Old Glasgow Road out of Stewarton many, many times but even I was surprised when I logged onto Strava when I got to work to discover that I’d set a PB from Kingsford to the White Loch: I wasn’t even going for it because it climbs x hundred feet. Well see on Monday morning, Henry morning… watch me whizz up that leaderboard.

Talking of leaderboards, yesterday’s run in was another wild one, except it was dry: and cold. I’ve been trying for about a year and a half to duck under on a minute on the Strava segment known as the Graveyard Run. It’s 0.4 of a mile from the gates of the cemetery on Waterfoot Road in Newton Mearns to Means Castle High School. The end of the segment is marked by two road signs, one on each side of the road. The first 200m is downhill as the road swings to the left. The surface isn’t bad (no potholes [yet]) so you can absolutely clog it. The problem is… the uphill finish. I’ve blogged about this before because that finish is an absolute killer. It reminds me of the second time that I ran the Killer Mile down at Mow Cop and I as I checked the watch at the 1 in 3 bit outside the Cheshire View pub, I knew it was touch and go whether I could duck under 7 minutes. My first attempt a year earlier had produced a 7:17. Legs gone… absolutely gone.

But you just keep turning those pedals. I kid you not, I was playing with the gears front and back desperately trying to find something that I could push for one last effort. A hundred yards. Fifty yards. Twenty yards. Done…. And this is at 6:15am remember. There’s not a soul about, not even a motor or a dog walker. This is man and machine versus man and the elements.

Callum Finlayson will know where I’m coming from as I tell this story. Over the top of the climb and half a mile gentle downhill back to the main road, those same legs that were more shot than they’d been in 30 years were back to almost normal in two minutes. When you’re on top of your game, it’s a wonderful thing.

The result: 58 seconds. My previous best was a minute and two. But just as important was 9th place on the Strava all time list. 393 people have tried that segment. I need 1 second for 6th place. Henry, are you listening? Fresh legs on Monday morning mate.

But before I leave this story, I want to dangle the carrot of the Graveyard Getaway under the nose of Ross Taylor. See those legs of yours: let’s see you put them to good use. Can you make the top five?

I have to say that my thoughts right now are completely dominated by the finish of LCFN. Lisa, Kian’s mum, nailed it on Facebook this week when she posted this: “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on”. That has been me sooooooo many times. In the dark, wild days of that first winter when this was all a new experience and I was aboard a five year old mountain bike with knackered disc brakes that hugged the wheel, to the six months of hernia pain that made walking any distance feel like a boot in baws, to nine weeks off after getting it sorted, to being a wee tubby thing when I finally got back on the bike: to thirty four 200 mile weeks in a row.

LCFN will end in Forres on 8th May. That’s 63 cycling days max from now. I’ve still got 2,850 miles to go at 43.0 a day until Belfast on 5th May. A week ago, that 43.0 was 43.6. And the week before that it was 43.8. At Christmas it was 44.0. I am acutely away that even a single day off the bike will up the asking rate by nearly a mile a day for each of the remaining days. That’s why, even though the weather has been shit, I’ve been working away at reducing the asking rate: so if I do lose a day, which might happen as early as Monday with Henry, I’ll be no further back than I was a couple of weeks ago.

Something else that Lisa said this week was “you will never truly understand something until it actually happens to you”. I’m not asking you to understand LCFN: but I am asking you to understand that when a date has such significance as May 8th, and you’ve come as far as LCFN has, then nothing is going to get in the way of the desired outcome. I’m managing it so that I can keep the 200 mile weeks going till the end, whilst making sure that the 25,000th mile happens somewhere on the road between Belfast and Forres. Between you and me, it would be perfect if it was on the back road from Ruthven Barracks near Loch Insh.

Now talking of that final leg, here’s the plan: it’s shaping up like last year’s team that rode from Forres to Celtic Park for Eileidh will be out there again. Same support too in the shape of the fabulous Iain McGovern with the added attraction of Andy Fisher possibly helping him out at the bar. These are still early days but with the Larne to Troon boat not running this year, we’re left with the Belfast ferry to either Cairnryan or Stranraer and the tortuous A77 to ride to the relative safety of Turnberry and the Electric Brae back road into Ayr. We plan on going to see wee Zakky Brennan in Belfast on the 5th before a rendezvous with Team Knox and a date with the 23:30 boat. Yes, you read that right. The plan is to ride the A77 through the night, starting at 2am, because it’s the safest way of doing it. A few hours kip on the boat will be the launchpad for a 110 mile leg to Stirling, followed on the Saturday by another 110 mile leg to Newtonmore. The Sunday, Oscar Day, will see Callum Finlayson, the 2014 Scottish 100 mile time trial champion and the driving force behind the Pedalstrokes charity, join us for the 50 mile jaunt into Forres, his and Princess Puddles’ home town.

It’s like the days are zipping by so fast. I never imagined how it would feel to be at 22,000 miles, yet in four weeks time, that will be 23,000. The game is almost up.

I had one huge regret today when I realised that the distance total for January, 978 miles, had fallen just 22 miles short of Gold. Had I realised even a fortnight ago that it was on, I would have gone for it, but I’ve been so preoccupied with not bringing the asking rate down too quickly, that it never crossed my mind until it was too late that it was on the cards. How I would have loved a thousand miles in the middle of winter. So sad and also so mad to have missed out: a chance that will probably never come around again. C’est la vie…

But hell, less of that negative stuff. This week was all about checking the weather forecast on Sunday night, spotting a storm, any old storm, and riding it.

I give you Gertrude, sister of Bawbag, the King of Scottish Storms.

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