Cabrach Circuit - long ride report



D

David Martin

Guest
Riding the Cabrach Circuit as my first 200.

I had been planning all year that I would ride a 200 at some point. I
got really close last year, at 192 km (Dundee-Edinburgh-Dundee), my
longest then ride by a good 30 miles. So this year I had set up a
strict training schedule, planned my preparation, and aimed to peak
perfectly at the end of August. Not!

I had a heavy dose of real life that curtailed the preparation to less
than the previous year. Fewer weekend mornings, no time trialling and
other pressures reduced time and miles on the bike. Nevertheless, Audax
is about daring to do what you really might not be able to, pushing
oneself to the limits, so I took the plunge.

I had previously ridden the Wellbank 115 (see posts passim) and learned
a lot from that. The major lesson was to ride at exactly your own pace,
not anyone elses. It is emphatically not a race. So, with a good dose
of nerves, a threatening sore throat, and only four rides this year
over 100km, I hopped on the train to Stonehaven.

I had ridden out from Stonehaven before, unladen, and knew what the
hill was like. This time I had my secret weapon, the compact double,
and it was much better. Apart from my left lever refusing to change out
of the big ring without severe provocation. And the lowest gear
refusing to stay engaged.

The start was at 'The Anvil', home of one of grampian CTC's nicest
members. His copious lawn was host to many tents, and mine soon joined
them. Minus my sleep mat, i'd forgotten that. And my head torch
batteries were dead. And I'd forgotten the matches for the stove. Great
start. And one of the other tents were blethering on too loud too long
until I yawned loudly, and they got the hint.

The morning was damp and grey. I was stiff and creaky. Breakfast was
the Ullrich diet - pork pie and fig rolls, and a cup of tea. And then
we were off. Very nice airnimal in the lead and myself at the head of
the main pack, till they got bored and passed me. I was trying really
hard to not keep up with anyone.

Down the first hill, gentle soft drizzle climbing up on rolling roads
to the first control. I'd not bothered to put on my rain jacket, the
new LiDL showerproof one doing fine.
First control - I bought new batteries for the head torch. Better be on
the safe side. And off again, steadfastly not keeping up with anyone
but going at the same pace, just a few hundred yards apart on the road.
The sun had come out, I was feeling a bit so-so and wondering whether
it was a good idea.

I did join up with Dave (Audax Ecosse) for most of the long, 20km
stretch to the Info control, but the final drag was a stretch too far
and I just let the gap grow. And into a very nice cafe in Huntly
(88km).

Refreshed and rejuvenated I set off for the next leg, over to Dufftown.
Over is the operative word, a long steady climb into a westerly that
was increasing in strength. That was mindnumbing, strength sapping,
just keep spinning the pedals stuff. Every false summit, every turn
upwards onto the bleakness of the open moor, with the wind in your
face.. If this was bad, it was going to get worse.

Dufftown arrives at the end of a fast descent, swing right around the
distilleries (tempting though it was to stop for a wee dram) and up the
high street to the second info control (111km). I was tired now. The
climb over to Dufftown had taken a lot out of me, but it was only 16km
to the next control, food and warm. How hard could that be?

By now it was tipping it down, seriously stairrodding. A quick
diversion to the local coop for water and chocolate, and on my way. And
now the real climb began, to Cabrach. This hurt. This hurt so much. It
wasn't so much the physical pain as the mental pain, wanting it to end,
knowing it would go on for an hour or so. The road steepened. I'd had
enough. I stopped. the rain had eased and I took off my rain jacket. I
started. Another km. I stopped. This really was the lowest point of
the whole ride. Had it not been in the middle of nowhere I might have
packed then and there.
I spotted other riders coming up the hill and had to get on and going
again. I'll see what it is like at the control, only 9km further on.
9km. Bike speed 9km/h. Onwards, upwards, can it really be getting
steeper? 8km to the control Bike speed 8km/h.

Almost screaming in frustration I just knuckled down and got on to it,
the bike refusing to use my 34x26, leaving me with a low of 34x23. Not
low enough, but I am moving.
And then it went downhill. Where did this come from? Where do you climb
mountains and have a downhill section? And it keeps on going. 6km to
the control, 5km, still downhill. 4km and just starting to rise. Can I
cope with 4km climb to the control?

I don't have to, the route sheet is wrong and the control is 4km
nearer. I pull into the car park, throw my bike against a tree and
exclaim that it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do on a bike.
Food and drink await.

Refueled, refreshed, only this rise to the summit and then it is all
downhill. A group of us made it over the summit together, well almost
as I was chasing a bit after stopping to take pictures on the ascent.
And onto the descent.

That day was Aberdeenshire councils 'we hate cyclists' weekend. Tar and
chip all decent runs down. 66km/h downhill then having to lean hard on
the brakes before hitting the gravel zone. front wheel taking
interesting lines on the corners, it'll be a few weeks before those
roads are really safe for two wheels.

Being round and short, with plenty of excess weight I descend like a
rock and rapidly passed all bar one of the group, now spread over a km
or so of road. I had had some experience of riding on gravel in Norway
so wasn't too fazed by the loose stuff, but really don't like blind
corners so wasn't taking as many risks as Dave on the front.
Last little ridge to cross before the last control. Minor roads
twisting their way across country and steep little climbs thrown in for
good measure. The roads are nice enough, typical Scottish rolling
countryside, but after 150k it hurt on all the up. I must fix those
gears. And run down to the control. More b*****y tar and chip, but this
has been down a while so I can risk faster speed on it. 30mph and I was
still feathering the brakes, and far more than feathering before the
corners.

Last control at the 160km mark. My second ever Century, and a short
evening ride back to the control. Time check. Hmm, looks like I'm going
to just miss the last train from Stonehaven so I put the management on
standby taxi duty, estimating an arrival at the finish at about 8.45,
or three hours from leaving the last control at minimum Audax pace.

And then I left my brevet card in the pub. I realised a km down the
road, and turned back to have one of the other riders hand it to me. A
friendly bunch..

What a blast. It is amazing what a generally downhill with the wind
behind can do for your legs. Absolutely flying along, 20-25mph all the
way back to Banchory, and able to really crank it up. Along the banks
of the Dee, I can't even do a ten at this pace, how come it is going so
well after 100 miles? Is this how it feels coming into the final few km
of a TdF stage and winding up for the sprint?

And the sting in the tail. The final climb up to Netherley. I confess
to getting off and starting to walk. I further confess to a sense of
pride that noted the speedo on 199.98km and made sure I got back on and
rode through 200km.

And the sun had come out. Sinking slowly into the North-West, with the
dry stone walls and clumps of Rosebay Willowherb sidelit with a warm
evening glow. But I was too tired to seriously think about taking a
picture, just trying to roll back those last few km to finish.

And I did. At 7.50 after 11h50 on the road. With enough time to eat,
drink and pack up my tent. It was just getting dark so I pulled out the
batteries for the head torch. I'd bought the wrong size. So it is the
pathetic LED front light that swivels on the bars to get me back to
Stonehaven.

Rucksack with camping gear on back, somewhat chafed behind (the scars
have just about healed now) and off to the town. Into the town centre,
25 mins before the train. I walked up the hill to the station and
arranged for DW to pick me up from the station the other end, very
weary but very pleased to have done my first 200.

Overall distance ridden was about 135 miles on the day. The last 6 or
so with a full rucksack. Actual riding time for the 200 was about 9h30,
an average of just over 22km/h with which I was very pleased,
especially given the terrain.
No figure was given for climbing, but subsequent measuring with Memory
Map gives a figure in excess of 2850m over 200k, of which over 1700m is
in the 100k between Huntly and Banchory, so should qualify for an AAA
point (case pending).

I got through more than three litres of liquid between controls despite
the generally dreich weather, various miscellaneous snacks and pies,
and something hot and edible in each of the cafes. I don't know what it
did to my metabolism but including the ensuing week I lost over 3 kilos
in weight, and it took the whole week to recover.
 
David Martin wrote:

> And then it went downhill. Where did this come from? Where do you climb
> mountains and have a downhill section?


The Croix du Fer. There's several short downhill-and-then-steeply-uphill
bits that totally destroy your rythm.

Sounds an excellent ride though. I really must make an effort to get up
to Scotland again soon and do some riding.

--
Arthur Clune
 
D

David Martin

Guest
[email protected] wrote:
> David Martin wrote:
>
> > And then it went downhill. Where did this come from? Where do you climb
> > mountains and have a downhill section?

>
> The Croix du Fer. There's several short downhill-and-then-steeply-uphill
> bits that totally destroy your rythm.
>
> Sounds an excellent ride though. I really must make an effort to get up
> to Scotland again soon and do some riding.


You might enjoy the Dee and the Don, which has about as much climbing
as it is possible to put into 200K without qualifying for any AAA
points. And is very scenic. Even when it is sunny.

...d
 
S

Simon Brooke

Guest
in message <[email protected]>, David
Martin ('[email protected]') wrote:

> I'll see what it is like at the control, only 9km further on.
> 9km. Bike speed 9km/h. Onwards, upwards, can it really be getting
> steeper? 8km to the control Bike speed 8km/h.


Oh, I so know this feeling! Great ride report.

--
[email protected] (Simon Brooke) http://www.jasmine.org.uk/~simon/

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