There’s an old adage in football about taking one game at a time. Well that’s pretty much how it is in LifeCycle during the Bawbag Season. And right now Bawbag’s on heat.
I may have mentioned this in a previous blog but I’ll risk repeating myself by slapping a fiver on Windguru @2/5 to get the forecast right. Last weekend Windguru predicted a family of wee Bawbags in the week just past and it certainly did not disappoint. I’ll be straight up and say that I lost count of the number of times I got drenched (on the outside) but of course that wasn’t the issue: it was the wind.
To be honest you could have thrown Wednesday, Thursday and Friday into a bag and just labelled it Groundhog Day. Hey, the Fenwick Muir can be a desolate and unforgiving place at times. You see the problem isn’t the 3 miles up the hill into the wind from Giffnock to Newton Mearns, that’s just the support act. The fun doesn’t start until you come round the corner past the Malletsheugh, over the motorway and onward into the unlit night sky past J5 of the M77. When it’s blowing from the South, the West or the South West (well, that’ll be 95% of the time then) then the 10 miles from there to Fenwick are the personification of mind over matter. For one, it’s unlit; for two, it’s horribly exposed; for three, if a heavy goods goes past on the adjacent northbound carriageway (I’m on a dedicated bike lane thank goodness) you get the full works.
Yet those ten miles on the homeward leg define the LifeCycle project better than even getting up at 5:15am. Quite simply, they are hellish on days like Groundhog Day. Imagine going downhill and pedalling hard to manage, wait for it… 6 miles an hour. Yup, been there, done that: Wednesday. Imagine thinking “I’ve been here and felt like this before”. Yup, been there, done that: Thursday. Imagine going (ever so slightly) uphill and having to drop into the wee ring just to maintain forward progress. Yup, been there, done that: Friday. And soaked all three times.
My mind is so focussed on those three days that I can’t fully appreciate how difficult Monday and Tuesday were, except on Tuesday I remember getting in, getting showered and going straight back out to do the fitness work at Joe’s football team. Those boys are lucky because it doesn’t really matter how bad the weather is: if I’m just off the bike in bad weather, they get to work extra hard, just because I know they’ll appreciate it in those conditions. Mind games, eh?
On top of all that, someone will need to remind me which day it was that I left the house in the morning to lashing hailstones and a completely white road. Indeed, it was white all the way to the top of the Mearns when the road eventually turned black (ironically, that’s the complete opposite of Bonus Miles week back in November when the Mearns was the start of the Road To Hell.
So let’s put all this into some kind of perspective. The only thing that’s a problem in the morning is the risk of black ice. And the only thing that’s a problem in the evening is high wind. A southerly gale in the morning just means a world record time going in and pretty much a full tank of fuel on arrival in the office.
It’s the wind that’s the real killer.
The cycle lane on the A77 must be about 8 feet wide with a kerb separating it from the northbound carriageway of the main road. When it’s windy, there are two issues to contend with: big gusts (that are quite capable of throwing you off the bike) and rubbish. The trick on the rubbish front is to remember where you saw it on the way in in the morning, and even if you stopped and cleared it to the side, remember that it might be back out there in your way. Bits of tree are a speciality in that regard, and well worth watching out for, not to mention the odd shopping trolley of course. So the trick when riding home is to ride wide (upwind) to one side (away from the road if possible) and give yourself those 8 feet as contingency. You’d be surprised just how adrenalating (there’s a new word for you) it is just trying to stay upright when you can’t see the wind coming (unlike the rain).
Don’t get me wrong, the rain isn’t particularly pleasant but it’s really not a big issue. Waterproof everything sees to that: you’d be surprised just how covered up and snug you can make yourself when the elements demand it: except for that damned wind.
So at the end of a Bawbag week from hell, I can tell you without fear of contradiction that a maximum 170 miles was by far the most significant benchmark of LifeCycle thus far. I can do this, all of it. I just need to keep telling myself that if I can get through this winter, there are only four more to deal with.
Michael Fish clearly likes a game of poker: well there’s a wee full house for yer, son.