Andy’s Glentress 7. A quite different story.

Following on from Allan’s heartfelt and honest Glentress 7 (GT7) story, it encouraged me to write my own. It’s a very different story despite the fact we rode together for a few laps. For months, I’ve had an issue with nerves being impinged by my neck. It means I lose feeling in my left arm and descending on a bike causes severe pain in my left shoulder. Quite simply, I’ve not been enjoying riding for the last 7 months, which is just wrong for someone who has made riding bikes his life, both at work and play.

I’ve been desperately trying to enjoy it but always ending up very sore and quite frustrated, regularly cutting rides short. As little a 4 weeks ago, I wasn’t even going to ride GT7, but a change in medication, while not a solution, made riding a bike much more comfortable and for the first time in ages, I was able to enjoy the bike again (thanks Doc). Might as well turn up to GT7 and see how I go then.

Ridelines at Glentress 7 2019
At this point I didn’t even know I was on a mission.

My strategy this year was to have fun, enjoy just being on the bike, and quit when my shoulder got too sore then soak up the vibe of the day. I genuinely had no expectations at all but remembered sound advice from a fellow solo rider “Make sure you can talk. If you can’t, you’re going too hard”. Right then. Pace yourself and chat to folk.

I can do that. Here we go. Once the race started, the reasons I love this event came flooding back to me. It’s on my doorstep, always a good thing, and it attracts such a wide range of riders. Most people riding either have a personal goal or are just there to have fun. While I had no expectations, I’ve learned to pace myself early, as it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the race start. It’s only lap one and there’s still 7 hours to go.

First lap over and back in the arena, the atmosphere is wonderful. Lots of shouts of encouragement, so many in fact that I can’t acknowledge them all. I love the encouragement and everyone should know that it genuinely helps. My spirits were high by this point and, with a quick change of bottle, I was back out again and ready to settle into my pace. I know what to expect from GT7 as I’ve done it solo 4 times now but this year was quite different.

For me, and many others, it’s a truly personal challenge, not a race, and the impact the event would have on my injury was unknown. As the day got longer, I was feeling good on the climbs but I started to get nerve pain in my shoulder and arm on the descents. The descent on lap 5 hurt quite a lot but I knew I’d get respite on the climbs which helped me keep going. I must be the only rider now loving the climbs and dreading the descents.

Ridelines at Glentress 7 2019
After a 4-5 laps you just have to settle in!

This was a new psychological challenge for me. I’m a stubborn old git when I get the bit between my teeth and I was determined to keep going if I could. I enjoy the endurance, the determination, the feeling that I can ride through the pain and discomfort. I can’t quite explain why I enjoy this Calvinist streak but I’ve heard it best described as “type 2 fun”. It’s fun Jim, but not as you know it. I look around me and can see I’m not alone with this mindset. That too, helps inspire me.

By the end of lap 7, that last descent really hurt. I didn’t want to do it again. I stopped at my pit and subliminally changed my bottle over. I looked at my watch and saw that there was still well over a hour to go. I thought, I’ve done better than I thought I would, but there’s still well over a hour to go. Why stop now? The next 40 minutes or so are just climbing, and that doesn’t hurt so much. Why stop now? What else will you do for the next hour? So, out I went again, legs feeling good, arm and shoulder easing.

Ridelines at Glentress 7 2019
Standard bomb-hole picture. The pain in my shoulder seeming like a distant memory.

If I stay on the bike, I’ll do 8 laps. Woohoo! I loved that 8th lap. I genuinely didn’t believe I’d be capable of it but simply doing it really lifted my spirits. I won’t lie. The descent came round all too quickly and I had to nurse the bike down to the bottom. Coming through the finish line, I felt quite emotional. I beat my previous best by 4 minutes. I was hurting, laughing, confused and a little overwhelmed.

Remember, 4 weeks ago, I wasn’t going to do this event. Even as I write, I can’t quite understand how this all happened. What I do know is that I’m already looking forward to doing it all again next year. On a final note. On lap 6, riding through the Dougie Bank, I heard the familiar voice of my son. I looked down and saw my wife and son on the road below riding along, smiling and cheering.

I do this event for me, quite selfishly, for my own reasons, yet here were my family making time to share a moment with me. It’s a moment that will always be a vivid and happy memory for me. Thank you Velda and Finlay.