A marathon trip!


noun – an endurance event requiring great effort.

So we hadn’t had a trip of any note for a while, when all of a sudden the “old git” only goes and announces that he has entered Team Matilda into a Cycle Marathon event!

I have to say there was a bit of a ‘minor domestic’ as the “old gal” took this information in!

“You’ve what?” and “you do realise that is a distance of 26.5 miles” were two of the phrases that could be repeated from the “discussion” between the pair that followed.

She even took to spelling out the word slowly – as in “m-a-r-a-t-h-o-n” in the hope of getting the distance, and therefore potential effort involved, across.

But the “old git” countered with the fact that although the super-fit brigade from the local cycling clubs would be taking part, it wasn’t a race and it was the taking part that was what it was all about! The “old gal” remained, at best, unconvinced even as it was pointed out that we were the only tandem entered so far and it would be a bit of fun!

Credit to the “old git”, he was trying hard – (yes he is very trying… shouts the “old gal”!) and his trump card was that it was all for a good cause as the Cycle Marathon was being organised by the Auchterarder Rotary Club with the sponsorship monies going to Prostate Cancer. Our local event was part of a national Rotary Cycle Run with events from John O’Groats to Lands End.

Anyway we were officially entered so there was no backing out and I have to say that this “old girl” was actually quite excited as I have never been in a proper cycling event, other than the fundraiser we did in Millport last August!

I do admit that one part which did slightly worry all three of us was that on the entry form the organisers wanted to identify the approximate speed of the cyclists, in order to stagger the start times.

Entrants had to indicate whether they were in the 12-15 mph section; the 15-20 mph section; or the “really fit” lycra-clad uber-fit pedallers churning out speeds of 20-25 mph.

The problem was that there was no tick box on the on-line entry form for those whose average speed is just less than 10 mph!

So the “old git” ticked 12-15 mph, more in hope than reality! I think it was at that point we knew we were going to be near the last finishers! But as the very definition of the event says, it is a marathon and not a sprint – so finishing  would be our goal.

And as the “old git” took to repeating at regular intervals in the week before the event, Team Matilda has to cover between 25 and 30 miles EACH day for SIX days in a row on the planned Tour de Bordeaux in September – “so it will be good practice!”

“It might be good practice” said the “old gal, “but we have all day to cover those miles, tandeming across the flat French countryside in warm sunshine with regular stops for sightseeing, wine and tasty picnics.”

I have to say, the “old git” reluctantly agreed she had a point there. So the dynamic duo set out on a recce of the route – by car! The route was on the back country roads, starting at Gleneagles station, up past the hotel and golf courses to Braco and on to Kinbuck and then the first roundabout going into Dunblane. And that was the half-way point, as then you have to cycle all the way back to Gleneagles station.

The “old gal” quickly identified a few hills that she deemed were “walking up” hills, but other than that the route appeared relatively flat.

And so it was with (more than) a little trepidation that Team Matilda turned up at the start point early on Sunday morning – especially as there were some very sleek models there too that I was casting an envious glance over. And there were some nice looking racing bikes as well!

A quick team photograph before the event saw one of the organisers take a photo of us – but why he took the photo in front of the disabled parking bay I am not sure? Perhaps there was a hidden statement there?

Marathon Day 1

Team Matilda ready for the Auchterarder Rotary Cycle Marathon.

Soon we were lined up, and I have to say I was attracting quite a bit of attention as spectators asked about me with the “old gal” proudly saying I was a “classic tandem” and patiently pointing out that yes, she does need to pedal!

And then we were off. In low gear to get up the hill out of the station, without having to come off and push. But almost immediately there was a loud noise like something was rubbing so they dismounted for a quick investigation.

Nothing was glaringly obvious – with the “old gal”, who doubles her role as stoker with being Chief Engineer, checking the brakes and mudguard.

The “old git” – true to his role as Chief Pilot – was keen to get moving again so they got back on and cycled along past the hotel before stopping again as the noise refused to go away.

I was getting a bit worried and the “old gal” was somewhat anxious – but with nothing to be seen as to why the noise they decided to continue.

As we ate up the miles, the noise sometimes disappeared, but always seemed louder when pressure was being applied to the pedals, and therefore the chain, as we went uphill.

We got past the Braco checkpoint and followed the marshals flags by turning right towards Dunblane. But as we headed back out into the quiet of the contryside the noise intensified again, so much so that the “old git” thought there was a light aircraft above us!

The “old gal” had a brainwave and really earned her stripes as Chief Engineer as she decided that it could be the chain that was jamming up and needed some lubrication. A quick pit stop and she produced chain oil from her mystery repair bag and quickly oiled up the two chains.

What a difference – we were soon pedaling way without any resistance and everyone had  a smile on their face. What an easy solution, but what an incredible difference it made to the ease of cycling.

A downhill stretch saw us hit the giddy speed of 29 mph – albeit just for a few seconds. By this time most of the lycra cyclists were passing us going in the opposite direction as they headed back to the start.

But we were all enjoying ourselves now, and soon caught up with the only other tandem in the event – a hybrid tandem with wider mountain bike tyres with a mum as pilot and her young daughter as stoker. A few miles whizzed past as we talked about our favourite local routes including Loch Katrine and Loch Leven with the “old git” doing his bit for Millport tourism by recommending they head down to Ayrshire for a trip round the island!

We soon pedalled on and thru the village of Kinbuck before we crossed the busy A9 on a flyover and round the Barbush roundabout on the edge of Dunblane.

Half way there, and still well on target for the 4 hours we had decided would be a good time for us to complete the course. So we headed back just as a rain shower started. Fortunately we cycled out of it after about half a mile and headed back through Kinbuck, with the “old gal” gamely suggesting that a stop for a spot of Sunday lunch at the five-star Cromlix Hotel (owned by Andy Murray) would be an interesting diversion!

The “old git’s” response to that was to stop to allow them both a quick drink and an energy bar – before pushing on again. For some reason, it seemed a bit easier on the return journey, and I have to say the “old git” was really using my gears to get the best out of the downhill and flat sections, then going right down to very low gears in time for the uphills. And praise to the “old gal” as stoker as they managed to get up at least a couple of the hills that they thought they would have to walk up.

In no time we were back at Braco then the long climb up to Gleneagles golf courses – but we made it without stopping.

Just as we passed the entrance to the hotel the other tandem caught up with us – after showing a spectacular burst of speed on the hill climb. Their stoker was insistent that they had to catch us, making her Mum do most of the hard work!

Anyway we agreed we would cross the finishing line together and were soon going round the new roundabout at the station before going down the hill to the station car park and the very welcome finishing line.

There was much parping of my horn as we crossed the line together to lots of applause from the organisers – in joint first place (for tandems!)

And our time was a fairly respectable 3 hours and 17 minutes, which my dynamic duo thought was actually rather good!

Marathon Day 2

At the finish – Team Matilda finishing in 3 hours 17 minutes!

The fact that the timekeeper told us that the best time was 1 hour 12 minutes didn’t phase them one bit! Nor the fact that a couple of cyclists had done it twice before we finished!

The Rotarians had organised a tasty bacon roll and much needed refreshments for all the finishers which Team Matilda enjoyed while taking a look at a collection of classic cars that had been organised at the station as part of the days activities.


Marathon Day 4

A classic tandem with classic cars including two vintage Jaguars.

Marathon Day 5

And more classics, Matilda with a Triumph TR4 and a 1974 VW Beetle.

All in all it actually was a fun day with the Auchterarder Rotary Club raising very nearly £1,000 for the charitable cause. So a win-win situation.

And I really was very proud of my dynamic duo and greatly enjoyed the event. I will even keep our official entry number as a souvenir!

But I may just keep quiet about asking when we are competing in our next marathon!