Now you know that the official definition of the word marathon is “an endurance event requiring great effort! Well that was on the agenda today! We were entered into the Charity Cycle Marathon Challenge, organised by the local Auchterarder Rotary Club.
However the task ahead – cycling 26 miles non-stop – didn’t seem nearly as big a challenge as it did last year when the “old git” caused that ‘minor domestic‘ with the “old gal” when he signed Team Matilda up for the event.
But this year there was no sense of apprehension about it! I’m glad to report that the fear factor among my dynamic duo has gone! So the target seemed relatively straightforward – to complete the course and beat last year’s time of 3 hours 17 minutes.
Last weekend’s practice of the tandem run to Bridge of Earn and back in a moving time of 2 hours 44 minutes had certainly boosted confidence. Mind you there will be no stopping for a leisurely coffee and cake on this trip!
Sunday morning dawned with bright sunshine – perfect conditions for a tandem cycle run. The “old gal” and the “old git” were in good spirits as although the super-fit lycra-clad brigade from local cycling clubs would be taking part, they had wisely decided it wasn’t going to be a race and it was the taking part that was what it was all about!
And alongside the fun Team Matilda was going to be raising money for a good cause as the money raised from the Charity Cycle Marathon Challenge was going to Breast Cancer Care.
Like last year the cycle event was part of a wider fun day organised by the Rotary Club, so when we arrived at the start point at Gleneagles railway station there was already quite a buzz about the place.
I have to say that this “old girl” was actually quite excited as I only very rarely get to take part in proper cycling events. It really brings a rush of oil to my chain to be part of such a crowd of bikes – with a total of 90 taking part – especially as a lot of them were those sexy sleek racing numbers!
The lycra-clad cyclists seemed to be preoccupied by how light their bikes could be – as most were new aluminium framed things and could be lifted with a couple of fingers. There seems nothing to them, unlike me who is a traditional steel framed Jack Taylor – which makes me very heavy! But then there is a different appeal as I am officially categorised as a classic tandem!
And talking of weight, one of the reasons I was confident about Team Matilda breaking last year’s time is that when we stand of the start line there will be nearly five stone less of us than last year! I will say that again – nearly five stone in combined weight loss of the “old git” and the “old gal”. So just to prove the point we had to do a then and now picture with a shot of my crew of 2016, compared to 2015.
I am uber impressed with them as this has been achieved in less than four months – by using the food combination Hay Eating Plan. And not only does it mean that my ageing frame is not so stressed with the excess weight, but it means we can go quicker as my dynamic duo are feeling much healthier and fitter!
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 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 around the 10 mph mark! 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!
And as the “old git” mentioned at regular intervals in the week before the event, Team Matilda has to cover over 30 miles EACH day for SIX days in a row on the planned Tour de Loire Valley in September – so it will be good practice!
I proudly sported my official start number – 71 – and we were ready for the off! It is always fun to take your place on the start line with the fit squad! I am pleased 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!
Mind you it would need to be said that the “old gal’s” mind was wandering a bit as she took in the view of some of the nice looking models there … and there were some nice looking racing bikes as well!
In fact her mind wandered so much, that with all the excitement of the start there was an “operator error” in starting Strava and as a result it didn’t record the first half of the marathon! Frustratingly this was only discovered at the half way point! You can imagine the “old git’s reaction, so we will gloss over that!
But you can check out the route of the Charity Cycle Marathon Challenge on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!
And then, after a countdown, we were away. In low gear to get up the hill out of the station. It was quite a climb but successfully negotiated before picking up speed and tandeming past the front entrance of Gleneagles Hotel before a sharp left turn and heading towards Braco.
With next to no wind, we started to eat up the miles, enjoying being out in the sunshine and breathing in the fresh Perthshire air. This is what tandeming is about.
Not surprisingly we were soon passed by a few of the fit cyclists – but some did mention they were impressed with our efforts. This allowed the “old git” to point out it was all about our “synchronicity” and the “old gal” was able to remind them that “its always better when we’re tandeming together!”
We soon passed the Braco checkpoint and followed the marshals’ flags by turning right towards Dunblane. A downhill stretch saw us hit the giddy speed of 30 mph which is quite a thrill for an “old lady” like me I can tell you! And it allowed the “old git” to quip that it was just as well there wasn’t a speed limit on the road or a police speed trap!
Soon we were pedalling thru the village of Kinbuck before we crossed the busy A9 on a flyover and round the Barbush roundabout on the edge of Dunblane.
This was the half way point and my dynamic crew decided on a quick water stop – which was a good plan given the rising temperature which was now hitting 25 C. It was at this point we discovered the “operator error” on Strava! But fortunately the “old git’s” small computer on my handlebars was working and showed that we had completed what in fact was nearly 14 miles in just over an hour – 61 minutes to be exact!
So we were well on target to beat last year’s time. After ensuring that Strava was actually now recording our ride, we headed on the return journey. And yes, as predicted by my crew, this was tougher as it featured more uphill stretches than downhill.
As we headed back through Kinbuck, the “old gal” gamely suggested a short detour for a spot of Sunday lunch as we passed the driveway for the five-star Cromlix Hotel which is owned by local Dunblane-born tennis superstar Andy Murray!
The “old git’s” response to that was that he didn’t think Andy Murray would be there as he had the final of the French Open Tennis that afternoon! But as an alternative he allowed a quick pit stop to allow them both a quick drink and an energy bar – before pushing on again. 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.
The last couple of miles were particularly stretching as they involved a long climb up to Gleneagles golf courses. But then came the euphoria of being near the end and so a burst of energy took us to the new roundabout at the station before a welcome down hill stretch to the station car park and the very welcome finishing line.
There was much parping of my horn as we crossed the line to lots of applause from the organisers, spectators, and other cyclists who had finished before us – which the “old gal” had to record on video! (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)
And our time was an amazing (for us!) 2 hours and 24 minutes – definitely classed as Matildas marathon milestone as it smashed last years time by over 45 minutes!
Due to the Strava problems (did I mention “operator error”?!) the app only recorded the second half of the marathon – showing a distance of 13.8 miles, covering an elevation of 655 feet, in a time of 1 hour 22 minutes. On the return leg the average speed was 10.1 mph, with a top speed was 27.5 mph. Meanwhile the handlebar computer recorded the whole trip at a distance of 27.8 miles at an average speed of 11.3 mph and a maximum speed of 30.3 mph.
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 and motorbikes that had been organised at the station as part of the days activities.
Two motorbikes with sidecars quickly caught they eye of the “old gal” as they were effectively a different kind of classic tandem. We found out they were BAS A10 bikes, built in 1959 and 1960 and belonging to twins Fraser and Grant Miller from nearby Crieff who exhibit them at local shows.
They were happy to chat and even let the “old git” and the “old gal” sit on one, allowing them to do a reasonable impression of Wallace and Gromit!
One of the twins offered the “old gal” a ride in the sidecar, and within seconds she was whisked away for a short trip. She said it was completely different, as you didn’t have to pedal! But it was exhilarating! But she reassured me after that she had no intentions of giving up on pedal power! Phew!
So all in all it was a great fun day with the Auchterarder Rotary Club raising over £2,000 for Breast Cancer Care, including the £120 raised thanks to the people who sponsored Team Matilda.
And amazingly we even sparked the attention of the local Synergy Cycles bike shop who were supporting the event – congratulating Team Matilda on our milestone time in a Facebook post and even suggesting that we wear lycra next year! That may be a step too far!
We all headed back to Matildas Rest where my dynamic crew celebrated their marathon milestone time with a very welcome – and well deserved let me say! – glass of chilled white wine relaxing in the sunshine on the decking, and planning our next adventure!
Meanwhile, if you were entertained by my attempts at a marathon distance then you will be utterly amazed at another great blog and Facebook site which I have been entertained by reading this week. It is dubbed The Tandem Men and recounts the truly epic journey of two young guys who have set out from the UK who are aiming to be first to circumnavigate the globe on a tandem! Just the small matter of 18,000 miles! Awesome!
Now that truly is a marathon journey!