Tweed Valley

Bowhill duathlon (medium) 2015

My last blog post was about the difficulties of training for events with a one year old in the house and about the virtues of riding just for the fun of it… so how did I get here??


“Here” being the medium length event of the annual Bowhill off-road duathlon series. It doesn’t look at lot like it in that picture but I really enjoyed the event too!

In 2012/13 I took part in the short event just before I got pregnant and had a day of mixed fortunes. There was no chance of taking part in 2013/14 with the wee one only a few months old, and initially I hadn’t really planned to do the 2014/15 series…. until we went to the John Muir Winter Carnival at the end of November. We just went along for a fun family day out and to watch friends take party in the cyclecross race, and meet up with another friend who had taken part in the trail run. It was a fun day out but I felt a pang of longing to be taking part. Not in the actual cyclecross (that looks like hell!) but just taking part in an event.

The next Foxlake trail race was too long for me, and the one after that would be run at night, but they are re-running the 13km route in late March so I went home and signed up.

Then I had a big glass of wine and got a bit click-happy – signing up for the medium Bowhill duathlon in late January and long Bowhill duathlon in late February as ¬†‘training’ and to keep my motivation up through the winter. Sometimes you just have to go for it – no?

So, back to 18 January, not the best day for a duathlon as my friend had her 40th birthday party the night before. I woke up feeling nauseous and unsure if I was too nervous to eat, hungover, or too worried about maybe being hungover. I forced a big bowl of porridge down and decided it was just nerves. Thankfully the duathlons don’t start till midday so I set off at 10 feeling much better and drove down to Selkirk through a snowy winter-wonderland. I signed in and got my timing ‘dibber’ and checked out where to rack my bike in transition. This might be the time to mention that i’ve never done a bike-run before, not even in training. The short dualton is run-bike. Ah well.

The bike was fun! We ground upwards through increasing ly deep snow.. I rode the whole way but was a bit disheartened to find some competitors were able to run pushing their bikes faster than I was riding! The way down again was slip-slidey fun. I took it carefully and steadily and stayed upright all the way round, I actually really enjoyed this part as my heart and lungs tried to recover from the climb.

Into transition towards the back of the pack but really not that far back. Then I made a big mistake, I tried to take my waterproof jacket off with my Garmin still on my wrist and it got stuck. THREE MINUTES it took me to disentangle myself from the stupid thing! grrr….

I set off at a light jog for the run course to try to get the legs working, which would have been fine except that after about a minute the course began to climb again, and climb, steeper and steeper, on a layer of wet mud and snow. There was no way I could run, I was struggling to scramble up there at a fast walk. About halfway up there was a junction and a blue arrow pointed up to the right, but I could see a couple running ahead of me straight on, and a few ahead of them…. I was torn… I was pretty sure we were following those blue arrows but not confident enough to go alone so I shouted out to the others, the two immediately ahead heard me and came back and agreed I was right…. eventually just before the top the couple pulled ahead of me and the guys who went the wrong way caught me up complaining about how they’d taken a wrong turn ūüôā I was passed by another couple of people on this bit and then another couple of people on the steep run back down. I was in trail shoes but I think spikes might have been better… again it was a layer of very wet slippy mud with a thick layer of snow on top.

When we got down the slope, we crossed the road near the start/finish, at this point I couldn’t actually feel my legs. It was a very odd sensation, they were like dead weights but somehow I was able to tell them to just keep moving. The second half of the run was thankfully much flatter and I jogged round as fast as I could manage, trying not to trip or slip on the rough ground even though I could barely lift my feet clear of the roots. In the last km or so I saw quite a few people, passed some, some passed me, to be honest at this end of the field we were all just trying to make it to the finish. I’d have loved to finish with a sprint but by this point I had no control over my legs and they just plodded me up the finishing straight at survival pace and I dibbed in to finish. Total time 1hr 44mins. 56min on the bike. 3 in transition and 45 on the run/slip/walk/plod.

As I write this, the long event is two weeks away. Training has been a mixed bag. It took my lower calfs two full weeks to recover entirely from the last event. I ran a parkrun 5k yesterday in an ok time (for me). I MUST do a good few hill runs in the next ten days, and I hope to cycle out to next weeks parkrun as a “brick” training sesh, then I will rest well.

But would you believe it? – I’ve only got another 40th birthday party the night before the next event!!!

Categories: mountain biking, trail running, Tweed Valley | Leave a comment

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 Herv√©lo 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 ūüôā

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 ūüėõ


Categories: mountain biking, outdoors, Scotland, Tweed Valley | 1 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 Herv√©lo 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¬†Herv√©los getting a podium place! Lots of Herv√©lo¬† 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…… ūüôā

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

Natural Tweed

Best bike ride in a long time thanks to the fantastic Tweedlove festival. ‘Natural Tweed’ was the last event of this year’s festival and it was worth waiting for! 140 riders headed out from Peebles for a self-sufficient ride with maps of the route and volunteer riding marshalls, bike patrol and emergency mechanics scattered through the pack.

The route was absolutely stunning.. best natural ride I’ve done in the Tweed valley ever, the weather was perfect and trail conditions ideal. Good times.

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

Glentress 7

A moment of calm

We¬†entered the Tweedlove festival 2012 “Glentress 7” as a mixed pair. The format is 7 hours of riding on an 11km loop course of pretty technical singletrack and 450m ascent. We didn’t really know how long each loop would take us. I was thinking we’d maybe hit 6 laps… Si went first so that if we hit an odd number of laps it would be him that did more, but we didn’t allow for the fact that the first lap was much easier with a neutralised start – up the fireroad – instead of the first third of technical climbing and descending.

I went out FAR too fast on my first lap, keeping up with the traffic around me and nearly blew up entirely about a quarter of the way round, stopped for a bit and pulled it together then carried on finishing in 1hr13min. Went out much steadier for my second lap and maybe took it a bit too easy (even having a quick toilet stop) but only added 5mins to my lap time.

The cut off for the end of the day was 5:30pm and the cut off for going out for a last lap was 4:30pm. Si was due back from his third lap at 3:20pm so I didn’t think we’d have time for two more laps as I didn’t think I could make it round in 1hr10min so I was going to offer him the next lap as it would be our last and I was ambivalent about riding another one or not. But when he got in he made me go anyway… I headed off knowing I had to put in my fastest lap of the day but also had to not blow up like I did in the first lap… I decided to start steady and ramp it up.

In that last lap my heart and lungs and head felt better than they had all day, but my legs (left knee) and lower back/hip were really starting to grumble. I also somehow got engaged in two conversations with guys on climbs on that lap who kept asking me questions despite my gasping one-word responses(!?!). Knowing the course by this time made it go much quicker, and knowing where to push hard and where to ease up helped. I also concentrated on taking every bit of speed on the downhills that I could. At the hour-mark I knew I had gone further than the first lap so I had a chance. There also wasn’t too much traffic at that point so I really picked up the descent speed. I hadn’t managed to clean the off-camber rooty traverse near the end on either of my two previous laps and was worried about crashing messily on that bit but the extra speed seemed to help. On the final descent I heard the tannoy down at the finish saying two minutes to cut-off and I was caught by the crazy soloists and really fast male riders who were all aiming for the 4:30 cut off too, I was going too fast to pull over and let them past so I picked up even more speed in an attempt to not hold them up too much. I FLEW down the last section of rutted grass as fast as I possibly could (topping out at 29kph according to my gps) and crossed the mat with 30 seconds to spare!

Si headed out with an hour to finish his fourth (and our seventh) lap. He’d been hitting 55-56min laps all day so he’d be ok if he didn’t crash badly or have a mechanical…

Personalised race nubmers – how cool!

He finished¬†four minutes¬†before the final cut-off and so we had our seven laps. We were 88 out of 101 pairs overall (though only 15th out of 16th in our category which doesn’t sound so good) but both of us rode well, and I in particular rode far faster than ever in my life before so a good day all round ūüôā

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

Mountain bike marathon

Sunday was the annual CRC mountain bike marathon series Selkirk event. I have been working towards riding the 50km route at this event for six years!

I first rode this event in 2006 when I didn’t even own my own mountain bike and had to borrow one from my husband’s friend. I’d moved up from London where I’d¬†been a cycle commuter about¬†15 months¬†earlier, and¬†ridden the Glentress blue route a handful of times¬†but that was about the limit of my off-road experience.

That year I rode the shortest option – 25km – with a group of friends and found it really tough. The next year I rode the same route again and this time actually rode it rather than walking most of it! In 2008 I was going to move up to the 50km but the weather was awful with torrential rain all day¬†so I rode the 25 again and this time found it a bit of a let-down as I’d really out-grown that distance.¬†So we went to the Penrith leg of the series and I rode the 50k there (though it was undoubtedly easier than the Selkirk route). We skipped 2009, so in 2010 I was really up for the 50km. I went out for a short run the day before, fell over, fainted and thanks to some concerned passers-by ended up in an ambulance.¬†Doctors suspected¬†a broken hand so I had to spectate as my husband, brother in law and sister in law rode the driest trails they’d had for years!

We skipped 2011 again, so this year nothing was going to stop me from completing the 50km route. The weather leading up to the event had been wet, wet, wet so I was feeling a bit worried about the trail conditions but the forecast for the actual day of the ride was good. I ride¬†this kind of terrain¬†at around 6-8kph¬†average so I¬†worked out it might¬†take between 5 1/2 hours and 7 1/2. I hoped for around 6 hours. When we arrived in the morning at the event village the ground was clearly water-logged, and the temperature was around 5degC. I set off dressed in 3/4 leg shorts and long sleeves… big mistake!! This is a hilly route with over 1500m of climbing and by the top of the first climb of the day I was seriously overheating.

Course profile

I rode up the first climb leapfrogging with a friend Dawn and her friend Tracy, and pushed to the top of the second climb with them. Just before the second summit, Dawn managed to sink her front wheel into a bog past the axle¬†and flip over the handlebars into deep smelly bog! At that summit,¬†Tracy decided to call it a¬†day as she’d ridden¬†the road bike event the day before.¬†At that point we weren’t even halfway round which was a bit of a worry. I wasn’t tempted to go back with Tracy but as we’d been going for¬†nearly ¬†3 1/2 hours I thought I’d be lucky now to finish in 6 1/2 hours or more.

Towards the bottom of the next descent I lost touch with Dawn, she was ahead of me and¬†I was a bit surprised she hadn’t waited but thought she’d maybe¬†got bored¬†as I was a lot slower than her. At the feed-station again I was surprised she wasn’t there and asked the marshal if she’d seen her but she wasn’t sure… there were a lot of biting flies so I just assumed she had moved on because of them.

The final climb of the day started gently with a long tarmac climb up a valley, then¬†hit a steep grassy slope which I knew from a long way away I wouldn’t be able to ride up. I was actually looking forward to getting to it as¬†I was pretty knackered¬†and overheating and told myself I could push when I got to the farmyard.¬†At the farmyard I also took off my long-sleeved¬†top as I couldn’t bear it anymore and I just put my gilet¬†back on top of my sports bra which felt much better.¬†But even with the¬†wardrobe adjustment¬†that¬†push up was awful, truly truly¬†awful. I felt terrible and dizzy. I looked at my gps¬†and it read 36km. ¬†I knew that the “50” was actually about 45km and I guessed the final descent was around 5-6km¬†so I thought I’d be ok if I could just get to the 40km point. But pushing up at the 36km point I saw I was only moving at 4kph! The thought of taking another HOUR to push the last 4km was truly miserable. Also, I’d sucked my camelbak dry of water and only had energy drink left in my bottle.

Thankfully, the pushing didn’t last, soon I was able to get on the bike again and ride. As we went along the top I was passed by a number of the elite racers who’d completed 85km and they were really encouraging. Once I could see the final climb on a rocky path I knew it would be ok. My gps¬†was reading about 5 hrs¬†40mins so I wasn’t going to be as long as¬†I thought. I stopped at a bench to finish my¬†drink telling myself I could have five minutes but actually only needed about 2 minutes before I felt good to carry on. From there my mood turned entirely and I felt great. I ground out the last climb, saw I was actually going to finish in near to¬†my 6 hour target, stopped for a very quick breather on top to get rid of the jelly legs then whooped my way down the big final descent.

I found out yesterday my finish time was 5 hours 59 minutes and 52 seconds!

And Dawn? – She wasn’t ahead after all, she took a wrong turn on the fast descent between climbs 2 and 3 and went through that feed-station behind me. The woman I spoke to told her I was ahead and she came in three minutes behind me.

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

Mountain bike orienteering – Glentress

The second round of the Scottish mountain bike orienteering (SMBO) series for 2012 was at Glentress last weekend. I like to think I know Glentress pretty well, including a lot of the ‘off-piste’ but I’m happy to say that I discovered two new trails on Sunday – and one is a real beauty of a descent ūüôā

So many trails, such tired legs

There are more trails that I don’t know on the map so I’ll be keeping hold of that and going back for another explore sometime soon.

The weather was dry, and sunny although very cold, perfect riding weather really. So, how did we do? Well we came second last (again). We spent a lot of time plotting our route (15mins) because it was a really tricky map to get your head round, GT is a confusing forest with a real maze of fireroad,¬†marked bike trails, walkers paths and other singletrack. Then we had to climb up into the forest – old skool-style up the fireroad!¬†It really made me appreciate the newer singletrack climb¬†as I had forgotten how much of a grind the fireroad climb is (even if it is quicker). In total it was 30mins before we clocked our first points…

But we did make some good navigation decisions and rode down a sweet descent everybody else was pushing up and took the sensible way up to the point high above spooky woods. We also caught the really great descent in the right direction. At the end we made a good decision at the bottom of red trail “sair fecht” to get up to the red “falla brae” descent¬†for a big points point before then cutting out at red squirrel car park to race for a five pointer on Admirals blue trail. We got back 30seconds over time to lose 1 point but gained 5 by catching that last checkpoint so it was a good call.

I had a bit of a cold, but rode as hard as I could for the whole three hours. Navigation was alright (no big mistakes) so all in all I’m happy… even if a small child in the ‘generation’ category got more points than we did!!! ūüôā


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Easter Monday – Gypsy Glen

Gypsy Glen РParking at Glentress trail centre, climb up through Cardrona forest, top out at Kirkhope Law before descending via Kalzie Hill all the way to Peebles. Some climbing, some mud, some pushing, LOTS of fun descending!




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