A Sunday blog is about as common as a dry sunny day in February.
I declared in last week’s scribbling that I think I’ve upset the weather gods, and by heck this battle looks like going down to the wire: winter on the wane according to the calendar but not being reciprocated out on the road. These last few weeks have been hellish. But I haven’t ridden 238 stages on the spin to throw in the towel now by giving in to a wild day out. That is just not happening: I’ve got winter on the run. I doubted my commitment – albeit briefly – back in October when I wondered whether I really had the bottle to take on a sixth Scottish winter, but as the weather deteriorated, so my resolve got stronger. Now I’m 100% focussed on the end game. Back in that first LCFN winter of 2013/14, I missed one day, December 5th, and that was down to a storm. Looking back, I was definitely a storm rookie, a right auld scaredy cat, but even now, I doubt that I would have chanced the Fenwick Muir in either Ciara or Dennis.
It’s probably not appropriate to disregard (storms) Atiyah and Brendan because they set in motion a chain of events that suggested “fuck you” to the winter of 2019/20. Heading out the door at 3am to avoid 60mph winds at 9am was just the start. Those night stages proved to be the catalyst in the resistance. I don’t mind getting wet, as unpleasant as it is. I don’t mind getting cold, to a degree, but I do appreciate that it curtails the kind of distances that I’d otherwise like to bang out. The midnight ramble that pre-empted Storm Ciara was a case in point: once you can’t feel your fingers and thumbs, control of the gear shifters becomes an issue and it’s time to call it a day. But two hours is always better than nowt.
Which brings me to Dennis…
Two storms in a week is not uncommon, but the ferocity and payload that came with Dennis was something to behold: and for those days you need something better than a strong pair of legs: you need a plan. Dennis was a southerly storm to Ciara’s westerly. Under normal circumstances that would have ruled out the Dreghorn to Killie bike path in favour of Glengarnock to Lochwinnoch, but I don’t always play by the rules. For some oddball reason, when I loaded the bike in the back of the motor to had out west last Sunday, I had a notion to go segment chasing in preference to mile munching.
Glengarnock to Lochwinnoch is four miles. Glengarnock to the point where I turned is only three. And the stage ended up being twenty five. Because that whole Glengarnock to Lochwinnoch to Johnstone to Kilmacolm gig is (still) relatively new to me, it has a freshness that’s as enticing as it is appealing. But I still have to learn it. I have to learn it from the visual perspective, in that that bridge sits at the 3 mile point, that that path off into the houses is the 8 mile mark, and that Morrisons at Johnstone is the ten mile mark. Then it’s four up the hill to Bridge of Weir and another four to Kilmacolm. Learning the landmarks is crucial to knowing the stage. Last Sunday, Dennis day two, I banged out 25 miles on a three mile stretch of Glengarnock to Lochwinnoch.
There are two Strava segments on that stretch. The first one is suitably named “Escaping Kilbirnie” and the KOTP stood at 2m 11s. My first run, a kind of heavy duty warm up, was a 2m 20s. But that segment is followed immediately by another “Zooooom” that ends at a railway bridge a mile short of Lochwinnoch (hence the length of the gig). With no rest from Escaping Kilbirnie, I burnt the legs for 4m 47s against a KOTP of 4m 38s. I would have taken that time out if I hadn’t had to hit the anchors for a lady on a horse 200m from the finish: but these are the things that happen: a day in the life of a segment chaser.
I then spent the next hour cruising up and down the trail, trying (a) to free my legs of lactic acid (b) find a window of opportunity to get one more run in on each segment before calling it a day. That involves riding enough of the course in the wrong direction to check for dog walkers, and if you happen to encounter just one, to warn them of the oncoming express in five minutes. They’re usually very supportive of my daft adventures. Anyway, that second run out of Kilbirnie was 2 minutes dead, with a tail gale, so the KOTP was ours. There then followed another half an hour of tootling up and down the longer segment until the coast was clear, and I totally emptied myself, confident for all the world that I’d done enough to bag a double. But I hadn’t. To my dismay, once I got home and logged the stage, that second long run was a blown legs job, one to go back and fight another day.
However, in terms of “you win some, you lose some”, I got my comeuppance the next day when I decided to visit Vanessa’s seafront bench while there was still some residual woohoo from Dennis The Menace knocking about, and maybe have another shot at the segment along the seafront from Troon to Barassie. I parked myself on the bench – which is the most supportive bench you will ever sit on, by the way – to check my previous time… to find that I’d lost the KOTP the previous day – while I was busy bagging the one out of Kilbirnie – to a bloke from Ayr: and his time of 2m 12s was a full 20 seconds better than my old mark: that just goes to show how strong Dennis was, in full swing. Anyway, undeterred, I still gave it my best shot seeing as I was there and managed to slice eight seconds off my best: however from somewhere, probably on the Oz bike as it has higher gearing, I still need to find another 12 seconds in just over two minutes to reclaim top spot in R2CN’s name: and do it I will because it’s in Vanessa’s back yard. What I need is… a storm!
The rest of the week, I was eyeing up the next storm which I’d already clocked was going to be Ellen, due in on Friday for a 48 hour unwelcome stay. Feck, Friday was a horrible day. I purposefully headed out west in order that I could check the state of the football pitch at the Maress Sports Club in Irvine ahead of the top of the table clash with Crosshouse, scheduled for yesterday. The park was in great nick, probably the best it’s been in weeks. I left there thinking “game on for certain”: cue the wind yesterday… the referee passed the pitch at 10am but failed the wind inspection at noon. Game off.
I appreciated, as I always do, how foul the weather had been on Friday. I even got a wee video of high tide at Irvine Harbour: certainly the highest, wildest tide I’d ever seen down there. And yesterday was equally bad, with hailstones smashing into my face while I was struggling to do 8mph each time the heavens opened.
But the Met Office stubbornly refused to name the storm. Despite the West Coast Main Line being flooded south of the border: despite the Stirling to Perth line being flooded at Dunblane: despite the Ayr line being flooded at Johnstone. And despite various sporting events being called off, plus vehicles being submerged all over the place, this storm didn’t get a name: and I have a theory about that… People are sick of this winter, and these never ending storms. I think that someone, somewhere, behind a desk, has realised that giving them names only magnifies the misery in people’s minds. So rather than having three named storms on successive weekends, we’ve ended up with #Ciara, #Dennis and #AStormWithNoName.
And Ride2CureNeuroblastoma has defeated them all.
238 stages and counting….