Selkirk mountain bike marathon

Image: Andy Upton

Image: Andy Upton

I haven’t posted a lot on this blog in the last nine months… the little boy has meant that outdoor adventures have been limited quite considerably. However, I’ve still done my best to get out on the bike a few times each month. Just after Calum was born I signed up to the Selkirk mountain bike marathon as something to aim at getting fit again for. This is an event that I’ve done most years since I first began biking. Starting with the 25km option when I really wasn’t experienced enough to manage the course (but having a lot of fun in the process) and more recently doing the 50km option twice. The course is a big day out, with  something like 1600m of climbing in the 50k course. In reality I wasn’t able to do nearly enough riding in advance of the event, and getting up twice every night to feed the little boy isn’t the best preparation, but I headed down to Selkirk anyway thinking I’d just take the pace easy and see what happened.

I was really chuffed to meet up with some of my cycling club mates from Hervélo Cycling and especially when they said they were happy to ride as a group (they’re all a lot fitter than I am right now).

Great company for a grand day out

Great company for a grand day out

The route climbed through the Bowhill Estate up to 460m followed by a fast descent, another climb up to 325m and then some really fun steep, loose, muddy tracks through the Bowhill woods…. there were a lot of dabs, some stalls and big grins all round 🙂

At the 30km mark we had climbed up to 450m again, to the top of the Three Brethern. Just as we approached the summit we could see the leaders of the British Marathon Champs who had completed 70km of their 75km route crossing the summit in the other direction and beginning the final descent. Our course still had 20km to go, from the top of the Brethern down into Yair forest, round into the next valley and all the way up to the top of the Brethern again. At this point I really felt that I’d done enough. I’d had fun, but I think the next 20km would have broken me so instead I waited for a break in the Champs’ field and joined the final 5km descent back to the event village for a dnf.

In the end I’d ridden 35km with 1000m of ascent in 4h50mins. I am happy with that. Normally I’d really have hated to dnf but on that day, calling it while I was still having fun and going home to my mum duties without being broken was more important. There’ll be plenty time for breaking myself once the wee one is sleeping through 😛


Categories: mountain biking, outdoors, Scotland, Tweed Valley | 1 Comment

Wooler and Kielder blue route riding

Bump at 29 weeks on a bike ride near Wooler

Bump at 29 weeks on a bike ride near Wooler

With bigger things on our mind this year, we didn’t really want to spend a lot of money on our summer holidays this year. We also wanted to go before I got to the stage where I couldn’t really do much…. not that we knew (or know) when that stage would/will come.

So we took a week off in June 29 weeks into the pregnancy to go off in our campervan. We chose to head south to the northern part of Northumberland and the very southern part of the Scottish Borders where I hoped the less extreme landscape would mean more walking and cycling opportunities I could still handle.

In the end it worked out very well. I did two big bike rides during the week. Both of about 25km… the first was a ride around Wooler which we found in a leaflet in Wooler tourist info. As a lot of the ride was on National Cycle Network (NCN) 68 I assumed it would be all on tarmac or surfaced path, but I was wrong.. it was far more interesting 🙂 It was 24km in total with 370m of climbing and took just under 2 1/2 hours:

NCN routes aren't all tarmac it turns out!

NCN routes aren’t all tarmac it turns out!

Who knew a NCN route could be this interesting?

Who knew a NCN route could be this interesting?

Made me laugh

Made me laugh

So many great routes in the area around Wooler

So many great routes in the area around Wooler

The second ride I managed was a couple of days later. We were in Kielder where there are man-made mountain bike routes and we planned to do the blue ‘Osprey’ route together then Si would add the red route afterwards.


The first half of the route has one nice bit of singletrack but is mainly on forest road. When we got halfway round I was quite tired and we considered stopping where the route splits and one option goes back to the start, but…. there’s a map by the trail side at that point and it showed that almost all the second half of the ride would be on singletrack… I couldn’t resist!

By the time we got back I’d covered almost 27km and climbed over 400m and it had taken 3 1/2 hours. The last 5km into a screaming headwind. I felt utterly exhausted. But a couple of hours later and after some food I felt absolutely fine again and had no aches at all then or the next day.

The holiday also involved a couple of short walks…

Nature walk on Lindisfarne

Nature walk on Lindisfarne

Short walk in Craik forest

Short walk in Craik forest

Categories: mountain biking, outdoors, pregnancy | Leave a comment

Tweedlove.. with a bump

This past week has been the annual Tweedlove bike festival in the Tweed Valley. Last year during Tweedlove I took part in the Glentress 7 (a seven hour race for solos, pairs or threes), and Natural Tweed (a 50km natural ride out), the year before I did Natural Tweed and this year my husband was signed up for the King and Queen of the Hill Enduro.

So what is a girl with a nearly-six-months-pregnant bump to do during a biking festival?

There was a big risk of me feeling a bit left out and resentful from being unable to ride, so since we were down for the Enduro anyway I thought I’d sign up to marshall. Luckily the weather was kind and it was a decent day for sitting out for six hours helping competitors ‘dip’ at the start of timed stage 3 then taking down the tape on that stage after the last rider.

My spot for the day

My spot for the day

Timed stage 3 start

Timed stage 3 start

We picked up our new campervan on the Friday before the Enduro weekend so we stayed down overnight on the Saturday between practice day and race day. It was a glorious day on the Saturday and a pleasant evening so I’m really glad we did. By Sunday night though after two days on my feet and a bit of steep hiking to clear tape off the course, I would say I was about as physically tired as my husband who had raced the course! Still it was a nice tired; sun and wind blasted and although achey not suffering any particular pregnancy pains.

Thursday night was Hervélo pub night so I went along after my pregnancy yoga class to catch up with some riding friends, then this Friday afternoon I got tired of reading tweets and hearing about other people’s riding fun so I took myself on my bike up to the Pentland hills in glorious weather. It was about 27km of gentle riding which felt pretty good even if it wasn’t particularly exciting.  I had aimed to make it back down to Glentress watch the Dual Slalom on Friday night but work conspired against us until it was too late. I’m really sorry I missed one of the Hervélos getting a podium place! Lots of Hervélo  riders also podium-ed at the GT7 which is brilliant! I wouldn’t have had any chance of a podium if I’d entered but oh, I wish I could have ridden anyway…. next summer…… 🙂

Categories: mountain biking, outdoors, pregnancy, Scotland, Tweed Valley | Leave a comment

Cycling to halfway… and beyond…

It’s been ten weeks since our ski holiday and it’s gone pretty quickly really. I am now 22.5 weeks pregnant so well over the half way mark. Pregnancy is always measured in weeks, before I was pregnant this meant nothing to me, so for those in that position – pregnancy is counted (in the UK anyway) as 40 weeks long which is more than 9 months.. closer to 10 really. Half way is obviously the 20 week point when there is a very detailed scan. Our 20 week scan showed a very healthy little boy measuring perfectly for his due date despite me not having very much of a bump to show and not feeling much movement yet.

After I got back from skiing, I got a cold which really knocked me in terms of energy. I was utterly exhausted and felt awful for a good couple of weeks. Pregnancy apparently narrows the sinuses anyway due to increased blood volume and the wonderful news is that almost all decongestants are banned in pregnancy as they contain stimulants. The weather also conspired against me, it snowed on and off for most of March! Very unusual for Scotland. The snow turning to ice on the paths prevented me from doing any running or cycling for a while so I ordered a couple of pregnancy fitness dvds to do at home along with my weekly yoga class.

After my cold finally shifted, the snow began to melt at lower levels. I went out for a 23km cycle with the ‘leisure ride’ group of my cycling club. It was really good fun. The ride was gentle, even for me in my current condition 🙂 but it was nice to be out with a really friendly group of women who are all building their fitness and confidence on the bike and enjoying a social ride.

I kept promising myself that I would get out for a walk more often with the ideal of turning some into a walk/jog but my energy levels at that stage were just so low overall that working and attending the occasional social event was about all I could manage between needing to sleep… In early April I was needing around 10-12hrs sleep a day!!!!

For the last month I have managed to get out for a bike ride each weekend. A couple with the Hervelo ‘leisure’ group and a fe on my own. I have found some nice 20-25k loops from my house and although they don’t really excite me much I’m always glad I’ve gone once I’m out. I had a bit of a wobble about a week and a half ago at 21.5 weeks as the weather finally warmed and spring came and my energy returned. I felt really constrained and like I wasn’t allowed or able to do anything really fun anymore. I was very down that Saturday morning but I picked up my bike and headed out and rode 25km up into the foot of the hills on farm tracks and came back feeling 100% better. Partly it was the sunshine and fresh air and exercise and partly it was the realisation that I can do 25km if it’s steady.

The following day my husband was heading to a mountain bike trail centre near us but luckily after posting on facebook I found out a friend who is also pregnant was planning on heading down for a walk and a coffee while her partner and friends rode so we went down and had a really nice forest walk for an hour or so.

I think the wobble was caused by the return of my energy levels. I’m pleased to say that I now feel close to ‘normal’ in terms of energy and have since about 20 weeks. I know every pregnancy is different but it would have been nice to know from 6weeks onwards that it can get so much easier – I think I imagined it would only get harder!

This week, after the success of last weekend, I went out and bought myself some cheap and big bike gear. A cut-price supermarket was doing a cycling deal so I bought a pair of large ladies padded shorts which feel like they’ll last me as long as I want to keep riding. I also got a large mens cycling t-shirt and a jacket with zip off sleeves – all for £30!!! It’s not high quality stuff but it’ll get me through this summer still riding.

All for £30!!

All for £30!!

Yesterday, my husband and some friends were taking part in an event. The Perthshire Enduro at Dunkeld. It’s a lovely part of the world so I headed up there with a map plans for maybe a gentle ride or a walk while they were out. One of my friends there also decided not to enter as she’s saving money so she came with me and we rode a really pretty route on landrover tracks for a couple of hours and then went to the last downhill section to support the racers which was fun. It was great to just be outside all day again.


Tracks on the Atholl estate made gentle riding

mill dam 1

Mill Dam

I’m still not running, and I don’t think I will start again until after. After a talk by an ante-natal physio I am too worried about my knees and feet as I know my alignment is all out with a wider pelvis and loser ligaments meaning all pregnant women are prone to dropped arches (I overpronted before pregnancy anyway). I am really enjoying the bike riding and feeling comfortable with it and happy to say that so far I am not suffering any of the ‘normal’ pregnancy aches and pains yet so I will stick with what I know is working for me.

Categories: mountain biking, mountains, outdoors, pregnancy, Scotland | Leave a comment

Skiing, France… at 12 weeks pregnant.

This year’s ski holiday was in Val Thorens in the Three Valleys in France. It was booked long before I got pregnant or we even knew it was likely, and to be honest the highest ski resort in Europe at 2300m (7546 ft) was probably not the best choice for a pregnant woman but with snow like this who can complain?

View from our chalet balcony

View from our chalet balcony

The snow was fantastic, and the weather was so kind to us all week – with bright sunshine every day except the final morning. And with more than 600 km (370 mi) of piste in the ski area we barely scratched the surface.


Perfect snow, perfect sun.

Skiing at 12weeks pregnant was fine once I’d persuaded my husband to swap salopettes – on the first day in my own salopettes I discovered I couldn’t bend at the waist at all, luckily he’s lost a bit of weight lately and could fit into mine when I commandeered his!

I had to finish up earlier than the rest of the group each day and have a nap before dinner but I still skied from 9:30am to about 3pm (sometimes 4). I took it slowly and carefully but not so slowly I couldn’t keep up with the group. Thankfully I have a very relaxed ski style (some instructors have called it a ‘lazy’ style) and I generally ski with little effort and no aggression anyway. I skipped the moguls which I usually enjoy but still had a great week.


The rest of the group weren’t complaining about the extra chocolat chaud breaks!

 It’ll be a while now till we next get to the slopes, or the Alps anyway. The 2014 season is unlikely as our new addition will only be 3-5 months old. The couple of years after that we may have to make do with short trips to the Scottish slopes where we can share childcare and ski passes. But we’ve got our eye firmly set on Austria for our first family ski trip when the little one is old enough to have their first try on skis… and I fully expect him or her to be leaving both his or her parents behind in no time at all.

Categories: mountains, outdoors, pregnancy, skiing | 1 Comment

Bowhill Winter Duathlon 1

Sunday 2nd December dawned cold and frosty. It was the first (and shortest) of the Bowhill Winter off-road Duathlon series and my first ever Duathlon. I’ve done a few trail runs and a few mountain bike events so I thought I’d give this a go.

Image copyright: Iain Linton Photography

Transition at Bowhill House tearooms

For this one in the series it was run first then bike. It was so icy though that the running leg was more of an ice skating leg, starting out on black ice on tarmac estate road. By the time we started climbing the track I was pretty near the back. I puffed and panted my way up the hill struggling with the underfoot conditions – it was so rough, one foot could be sunk into mud up to the ankle while the other is on solid ice and on the next step it could be the other way round, much of the run was off-piste through the forest without even a path to follow. On the way down the hill the ice got too much for me at one point where the road had flooded then frozen and I went flying!


Image: Iain Linton

I landed full body in the mud on a section where we passed from flooded and then iced-over road onto wet mud. Under the full-body mud-pack I felt my right hand stinging but didn’t really stop to think about it… Into transition I was third from last, pulled my gloves over my sore hand and my helmet on and was out again faster than anybody else…

On the bike I felt far better and started to reel in other competitors, I enjoyed the bike leg and in total I passed 12 people one by one by being able to stay on the bike the whole time despite having the wrong tyres on. I finished 123 out of 132 but looking at the bike times I was about another 20 places up the field in the bike part. After finishing I peeled off my gloves to reveal a huge slice up the inside of my wrist and onto the palm of my hand which took a LOT of very painful scrubbing to get the mud out of!

For some crazy reason I have already signed up to the next (medium) one in late January but that one is bike first so I will be more in the mix and between now and then I have plans to really practice my off-piste running.

Run: 00:30:26
Transition: 00:01:56
Bike: 00:36:42
Total: 01:09:04

Categories: outdoors, Scotland, trail running | 1 Comment

A wrong turn

The last ride of our camper van holiday last month started promising, descended into a hike-a-bike across peat bog with no path, and ended with a beautiful late afternoon finish only about two and a half hours after we should have finished.

We set out from the Ardveckie Estate near Loch Laggan famous as ‘Glenbogle House’ from the TV series Monarch of the Glen.

Wobbly bridge

Somewhere after this wobbly bridge we missed a turn-off and headed up the wrong glen following the wrong stream. The path which had been a gorgeous ribbon of single-track eventually petered out and we had pushed for a couple of kms before we realised how we’d gone wrong and by then it was ‘easier’ to hike a bike across 2km of bog at the headwaters to the top of another stream we could follow down the next glen back to the estate track. The less said about that section the better.

‘Glenbogle’ House

Thankfully in the final few kms, the scenery was gorgeous enough to make up for the fact we were starving hungry and exhausted (and two and a half hours late returning the hired camper van!!)

Stunning Loch Laggan

Duration 6h 50min

Distance 44.74 km

Ascent 487m

Categories: mountain biking, mountains, outdoors, Scotland | 1 Comment


The Glenlivet Estate lies off the infamous ‘Tomintoul’ road between Braemar and Grantown-on-Spey –  Infamous for being the road in Scotland most often closed due to snow.

Basecamp in the Glenlivet Estate

From the village of Tomintoul itself you head North East up either the B9008 or the B9136 towards the village of Glenlivet. This is the upper Spey valley – a world of fertile valleys, upland heather moor and whisky distilleries, lots and lots of whisky distilleries (about 15 just within this small area).

Miles of estate tracks

There are also bike trails on the Glenlivet Estate. Apparently they are building some singletrack mountain bike trails there but for now it’s just waymarked loops on estate roads with small touches of singletrack path – the riding is not very exciting but it’s the best way of exploring the landscape (as the paths would be really dull to walk). We choose a 20km route which had a bit of climbing and the highest % of off-road.

Braes of Glenlivet distillery

Mid-way though the ride there was a ‘spur’ marked to the ‘Scalan Seminary’. We had no idea what that was but the weather was good and the riding easy so we went to explore.

Scalan Seminary

It was the strangest place. Totally off the road network, surrounded by grazing sheep, and not a person to be found, but a sign saying ‘Scalan College 1716-1799’ and ‘open’. We looked inside and found a whole little exhibition about the place with leaflets for sale… in the absolute middle of nowhere. You can read all about it here, it’s a fascinating place with an amazing history – what a hidden gem!

Catholic Church – Our Lady of Perpetual Succour

Categories: Cairngorms, mountain biking, mountains, outdoors | Leave a comment

Linn of Dee

Giving our legs a rest from cycling, the day after the Morven Killer Loop, we drove to the Linn of Dee on the Mar Lodge estate and went for a walk in the rain.

And THIS is why it’s worth going for a walk on a dreich and miserable rainy day:

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Morven ‘Killer Loop’

Second ride of the week was out of Ballater; the Morven ‘Killer Loop’ according to a well-known mountain bike magazine. There wasn’t actually much ‘killer’ about it – but it was a very nice ride which started in the centre of Ballater at a very good bike shop, and ended back in the town at a very good cake shop.

Downtown Ballater

A ride of two halves, after a warm up along the river Dee, the first half involved a climb up estate landrover tracks which gained a lot of height relatively painlessly onto a very exposed ridge above the town and back down again on the other side towards the Burn O’Vat visitor centre by Loch Kinord. The loop round the loch is optional but a lot of fun with rocky and rooty single track and even a Pictish stone.

Pictish Stone at Loch Kinord

After the loch loop, head back to the visitor centre and then up the path to the ‘Burn O’Vat’ where you come across this waterfall:


Scramble up to the water and in-behind and the you find yourself in quite a spectacular hollowed out pothole which is the ‘Burn O’Vat’.

Inside Burn O’Vat

Looking back out at back of waterfall

After the detour to the Burn O’Vat, there’s a short bit of pushing up out of the gorge and then a fantastic single track path that isn’t market on the OS map which leads to a track and then some tricky route finding to some of the locals’ favourite trails around the ‘quarry’ and then a fun descent back down to the A9 and the sustrans cycle route back to Ballater and that cake shop I mentioned earlier 🙂

Distance: 38km Time: 4hrs 49min Ascent: 624m.

Categories: mountain biking, mountains, outdoors, Scotland | 2 Comments

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