This weekend coming I’m heading up to Galashiels to ride the Borderlands Roc Trevezal 600km audax. It’s the last ride I need to get in before October to qualify for the Super Randonneur Award for the 2015-2016 season.
I hadn’t realised until last week that the stretch from Castle Barnard up to Moffat is the route the London Edinburgh London ride took in 2013. Please to have found this out as I have set my sights on riding the next LEL in 2017. If I’m ‘lucky’ enough to get one of the 1000 places going I’ll be pleased to have some familiarity with this section of the route.
Best not count my chickens before they hatch. Posting this now as a sort of prologue and to have a ready reference to the route maps and elevation profile in the coming week and if I need it on route.
Trying to avoid the mistakes I made with the 400 I did at the end of May. Started that with just three hours sleep the night before. Riding my bike was the only thing that was keeping me awake from about the 300 km mark. This time round I shall be in the vicinity early enough to get a good nights sleep before the start at 7.00 am on Saturday.
The other mistake was thinking my Garmin 800 would not lose my ride. That happened at about the 360 km mark. It had a melt down and got stuck in an on / off loop. Had to reset it to regain functionality. Managed to lose all my ride data by doing so. Never have managed to retrieve the stats. It’s taken a while to let go of that disappointment. I shall be saving each section I go as a separate ride for the 600. I’ll combine them to make up one ride once safely back at home.
Fingers crossed for no mechanicals, my fitness will hold up; my food and drink intake will suffice, and the weather will be on our side. Really looking forward to riding the route. I’ll come back to this post early July and report back on how I got on…
…post ride update 05/07/16
Job done! Well pleased! 382 miles / 615 km in total. 27 hours riding time. 38 hours in total. In case you get here before I’ve finished the write up I’ll be adding to this post bit by bit over the next week or so…
Still having a job comprehending cycling such a distance. Breaking the ride into stages worked very well. Treating it as twelve consecutive medium length rides made it manageable. At the end of each section I saved the ride before loading up the next course to follow. I found a psychological gain to notching them up / counting them down that way.
It was one of the more sociable bunch of cyclists I’ve ridden with.That’s not to say it was constant nattering as much of the ride I was on my own peddling at a pace I felt comfortable with. Everyone seemed happy though to chat whenever our pace matched which was mostly for the first and last fifty miles.
Stage 1 – Galashiels to Eskdalemuir
Stage 2 Eskdalemuir to Alston 90km
The rain started a three or four miles before the first control. It came down heavy a few times on the first day but never for long. So much for the new water proof socks. The water seeped down past my ankles and I was soon riding with socks full of water. Poached feet or trench foot take your pick! It was not that bad really. Wrung them out when I got to the Old School Cafe Bistro in Eskdalemuir. Once back on the road they soon dried out. Never had to bother again.
The picture above is fairly typical of the views coming out of Eskdalemuir as far as Longtown. The road to Alston from there took us along the A607 to Brampton. A wholly uninspiring 11 mile stretch. I got my head down and got it over with as quickly as I could. Soon after Brampton we entered the North Pennines which is a designated area of outstanding natural beauty. Just the sort of place you want to be cycling through. Quiet roads, curving their way up and down though some beautiful scenery. Perfect!
Stage 3 Alston to Barnard Castle 52km
Once through Brampton Yad Moss loomed ahead between us and Barnard Castle.
As it goes it’s not a tough or particularly long climb heading south. The wind was slightly in our favour coming from the west / north west. On getting to the top it really started to chuck down. I got a fairly good pace on and what with the rain pelting down and some fierce cross winds on a few bends the long sweeping downhill was an exhilarating experience tinged only by the thought that I’d be climbing back up the gradient in the very near future.
The sun had come out and I was mostly dry again by the time the descent was over. Blue skies over Castle Barnard provided a good greeting to the third control.
Chip shop and a Cooperative provided all the sustenance required for the return trip back over Yad Moss to Alston. Still a bit of water on my lens hence the blurry fringes on the picture.
Stage 4 Barnard Castle to Alston 52km
The route towards and back over Yad Moss was the toughest part of the ride in terms of physical effort. Twenty three miles or thereabouts of climbing into the wind. I was going at a snails pace in places. Many of those that had been tailing me to this point made up the ground and left me to peer into the distance at their slowly diminishing figures as they powered on ahead. Left to take my pick between being humbled or demoralised. Instead I chose not to compare. To do so is the thief of joy so rightly said Teddy Roosevelt. Still there’s an honesty in every climb in that what goes up must come down.
Whether you pay up front or later ascents and descents all equal out in the end. I find it’s worth remembering that whenever the climb seems never ending. Every climb is transient. I’d much rather a ride full of climbs than one dominated by the flats. Makes for a more interesting day out and provides some great vistas.
157 miles in the bag by the time I got back to Alston. I was beginning to feel it after that slog over Yad Moss. Not feeling much like eating anything but yearning for a hot drink. The controls a petrol station. The same one as we stopped at on the way down. It’s important to ask for a receipt to have evidence of proof of passage. I consistently forget to ask from my first purchase. This means I buy something else and then forget again. Never takes more than three goes. I had a hot chocolate, a black coffee and a packet of crisps before getting the receipt this time round. Every time I went to the counter the same women served me. Every time she enquired, ‘…any fuel?’ I don’t think she she looked up at me once. Must be a miserable job to have sometimes.
Stage 5 Alston to Johnstonebridge Services 91km
18 miles from Alston to Brampton and leaving the North Pennines behind. The sun was beginning to set. It had not rained now for a good few hours. The reddish sky bode well for good weather the next day. It was a lovely evening to be out riding.
As I peddled along the thought of vegetable Singapore Noodles kept coming to mind. Got to Brampton at around 10.00 pm and came across a Chinese takeaway en route. This was a real blessing. It got me back along the boring 11 miles of the A6071 to Longtown. From there it was a short ride back to the border with Scotland and through Gretna Green. Lovely! Back in Scotland. The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth! I enjoyed passing through the town. It’s history as the destination for young English couples keen to wed without their parents permission is very well known on my side of the border. I never saw much to note though other than a myriad of places for the newly wed to spend their first nights of marital bliss. A dim and distant memory in my case!
The next 24 miles went on an on and on. The ride roughly spanned the time an hour either side of midnight. Closing in on 200 miles for the day meant my pace had slowed a bit. It was dark. No turns or hills to break up the monotony. The route ran adjacent to the A74(M) which was within ear shot the whole way to the control at Johnstonebridge services. If I never rode along that stretch of road again I would not regret it. Still I got there sure enough. 213 miles done. Wheeled my bike all the way in past McDonalds ignoring any sideways glances from anyone appearing to give the slightest care. Bought myself a hot drink and contemplated whether I would continue on to my planned bivvy stop another 15 miles on or stop here for a few hours. To be honest my mind had just about been made up just before I arrived as it had started to rain again albeit very gently. I really didn’t fancy bumbling around in the dark, tired and wet so settled on staying where I was. Peered around a bit for somewhere to get my head down without the likelihood of being kept awake or disturbed by the nocturnal activities going on around me. The patio area out back had a handy awning which would provide adequate shelter from the rain should it get worse. And so it was there I laid out my thermarest, climbed into my sleeping bag / bivvy sack combo and spent the next few hours.
Sleep did not come quickly. It took a while for my breathing to ease into anything other than that which it had been on the bike for the last 18 hours. When it did come it was shallow and fleeting. The cacophony of wild fowl on the artificial lake provided the soundscape through the night and into the early morning.
I was up at 5.00 am. Four hours after I’d arrived. All the same I did feel somewhat rejuvenated by this brief respite. It was a lovely morning and in the light of the dawn I was able to more fully appreciate the atheistic of the lake which seemed somewhat at odds with being round the back of a busy motorway service station.
Stage 6-Johnstonebridge Services to Moffat 15km
Not a lot of faffing about. Had my breakfast and was off again soon after 5.30 am. Another seven miles up the god awful B7076 and from there a short hop to the next control at Moffat. Not sure why this control was added as there are no obvious shortcuts. Whatever the reason I was compliant and dutifully collected my receipt before heading on towards Selkirk en route back to Galashiels.
The following thirty to forty miles were perhaps the most scenic of the whole ride. It was a gorgeous morning. The air had been cleared from the overnight rain. The tarmac glistened with damp. The sun shone still low in the sky casting a beautiful light into the valley.
Stage 7- Moffat to Galashiels 64km
If there was any wind it was a help and not a hindrance. I got a good pace on once the climbing was over. I arrived at Galashiels by 9.00 am just in time for my second breakfast of the day. It was good also to be here with a few other riders (Lindsay, Adrian and Michael to name just three) who I had been riding with on and off at various times during the previous day and night. There’s a power to be gained in validating each others shared efforts and experience.
It would be fair to say that I was not alone in feeling the miles at this point. With something like another 175 – 200 km to go a little positive self talk mixed with a dash of denial was in order! It worked for me. The ability to disassociate the mind from physical experience is a handy life skill. It also helped offloading my Carradice saddle bag full of overnight gear into my car which was parked just over the road from the control. Being able to drive off seemed such an easy thing to do albeit for the second or two the thought crossed my mind. My intention was however firmly anchored and so there really was no problem with locking the car door, climbing back on my bike and getting stuck into the next stage of this ride. The longest sections were done now. Just two more of 42 miles and three of about 18. Chunking things up like that makes it distance seem quite manageable regardless of the miles already covered. Next stop was Wooler via the quite fittingly named Morebattle. Bring it on!
Stage 8- Galashiels to Wooler 37.0km
In contrast to the day before the sun stayed out and the weather was warm pretty much all day. The road was a bit lumpy (see the elevation profile above) but that meant the scenery was often varied and picturesque.
On the way we crossed this lovely old bridge which spans the River Teviot just above its confluence with the Kale Water, near Eckford.
It was quite an extravagant structure given it’s isolated location and the width of the river at this point. I did a bit of digging around and found out this about it –
Erected circa 1825 at the expense of a local landowner, William Mein of Ormiston, this is one of the earliest surviving carriage suspension bridges. It spans the River Teviot near near the point where Kalewater joins the Teviot.
Its builder, Captain (later Sir) Samuel Brown R.N. (1776 – 1852), was a manufacturer of chain cabling, having patented his iron bar links in 1817. Brown had earlier (1819-20) built another suspension bridge, the Union Bridge (linking Scotland and England) some 23 miles (37 km) to the east, over the River Tweed near Paxton (Berwickshire). The Union Bridge is the earliest surviving carriage suspension bridge in the UK still in vehicular use.
The bridge, of wrought iron construction with a timber deck (somewhat overlain by necessary late 20th century repairs), has a span of 58.9m (186 ft) and a width of 2.6m (8 ft 8 ins) between the suspension points. The chains are suspended from elegant pyramidal stone towers.
The bridge remains open to single file traffic; once traversed, it allows the curious traveller access to an excellent back lane to Kelso via the hamlet of Roxburgh, once the county town of Roxburghshire. It is Listed Category A. (Source)
We crossed the bridge from both directions. The first time at around 284 miles. The second time was 80 miles later on the way back to Galashiels. My first preference is always to ride a loop if I’m ending where I started. I have a notion that riding the same roads is a bit dull / repetitive. It would not hurt though to reappraise my view of this. We tracked back on the same roads a few times on this ride. I found on this occasion and not for the first time, that heading in the opposite direction does provide quite more of a difference than I give it credit for. Regardless I still prefer a loop!
Wooler was only another twenty miles from the bridge but it seemed a lot longer than that at the time. My toes were feeling a bit pinched, my hands were going numb, my ankles and knees were aching and my backside needed a rest. None were debilitating but each added to the other such that things got a bit uncomfortable. Every long ride has it’s moments. Yad Moss may have been the toughest section physically. This was the toughest section mentally. I was delighted therefore when I finally saw the welcome sign to Wooler.
Stage 9- Wooler to East Ord-28km
Stage 10 – Berwick Garden Centre to Wooler – 28km
Stage 11- Wooler to Morebattle- 29km
Stage 12 -Morebattle to Galashiels-38km