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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.

My Glentress 7. What happened there then?

I’ll keep this short as it may seem a bit self indulgent, but perhaps someone can relate to it?

I stood on the start line at the 2019 Glentress 7 as confident and as fit as I’ve felt for years. I had a new, carbon hardtail and a positive attitude. I felt great and full of confidence. So much so that I was hoping to get a personal target of 7 laps around the savage Glentress forest route. Andy was standing next to me. Presumably in the same state of mind and raring to go. He was also hoping to match his best performance of 7 laps.

By 5pm, I was in the bath at home after having time to wash my bike, have a snack and put my gear in the wash. Around this time, Andy was celebrating the completion of 8 laps. Putting both my target and his PB to the sword. Utterly amazing!!

I won’t speak for any secrets Andy may have unlocked to manage this amazing result, but I’m sure he’ll not mind me publishing the text message he sent me at 17:51pm —“I did 8 laps and I’m in bits”— fair play I’d say and no-one would blame him if he was crying whilst he typed it!?

Allan From Ridelines Descending at Glentress 7 2019
It was all going very well at this point. Absolutely flying and loving it! (Lewis Gregory Photo)

So I’ve identified a few things that went wrong for me on the day. Can you relate?

1: I’m now absolutely sure I’m not a “lap” racer.
I kinda convince myself I could be now and again, which is why I entered GT7. My build up is always confident and I know how to do all the right things. I can ride, I have the fitness and I can make a plan. When it comes to it though, I’m just too easily distracted on the day. I get bored, I want to talk to folk and stop all the time. I just want to take it easy and have fun. I can ride 100km end to end with no problem, and I have. Put me in a situation where I have to ride in circles and it’s all out the window. I already knew this, but I gave it a go!

2: I rode a new bike.
So recently I treated myself to a training / XC bike. A shiny new Cube Reaction C:62 SLT. It only weighs just over 9 kilos and its fast. REALLY fast. No problem, right? Wrong! My other MTB’s are a Cube Stereo C:68 150 TM and a Long Pipedream Moxie. Two bikes that are so far away from the Reaction that they can barely be classified together as actual bikes!

I’d ridden it for one day for a very short coaching session and it felt great. However, meandering around Glentress for 2-3 hours doesn’t quite prepare you for the uncomfortable scenario of sitting on it for 7-8 hours. More on this in my conclusion.

3: I was prepared / but kinda not prepared.
Up to race day, I’d worked 12 days out of the previous 14. Out riding and in the forest doing everything from private tuition to educational stuff. It’s hard work and you can’t really be distracted from what you’re doing. I didn’t really take nutrition and hydration seriously and though my legs and lungs both felt good. I know that I could have given them a little bit more in the longevity stakes by paying a bit more attention during the week. Quick lunches and stiff coffees are not the answer to any questions asked of yourself over such a short, intense experience as GT7.

4: I knew I was carrying “injuries”
I’ve had a sore wrist for a wee while and some issues with my right shoulder. Nothing really serious, but it’s an asymmetric issue that sometimes has me having to correct my position on the bike over long periods. Again, it doesn’t bother me day to day but on longer rides it can get quite sore. I’d intended to get a deep massage the week before to ease it off but couldn’t find the time. See above for “preperation” Another opportunity for a simple gain lost! All of these things are now coming together to conspire against me!

Ridelines: Allan at Glentress 7
It was Glentress 5 for me in 2019!

Conclusion.
When I was riding early in the race, I felt amazing. On all sections the bike felt great and I felt great. I was actually really surprised how good the bike felt underneath me and for a 100mm, super stiff hardtail it descended very well. I also think that it may have been my undoing? Having never ridden it before, the tight geometry, longer stem-punishing, stiffness and shorter fork travel conspired to bring out the worst in my shoulder issue, but chiefly my right wrist.

By the end of the 4th lap, I was really struggling to hold onto the front brake on the last descent. The braking bumps on this section were not utterly blown out and a feature in their own right. I couldn’t effectively stand up and control the bike properly either. It was all going just a bit wrong!

I had a long rest and decided to go back out for number 5 in the hope it would pass. A completely daft notion I know, but I was determined to enjoy myself! I didn’t… It seemed to take ages. I got back in and felt absolutely wrung out! Aching all over and with a mindset of self preservation rather than determination!

At this point I was simply out of the game! I had plenty of time to at least reach my goal and be a lot happier with my performance. Perhaps I could have squeezed another one in, but I’d kind of made the decision to quit already. I was just having a bad day! It was at that time that I decided that I wasn’t going to tackle this race in the Solo category again. As I said, I’m simply not the racing type. Perhaps it’s just not for me?

Still, never say never right? – Allan

Congratulations to Andy for his achievement and thanks to everyone for cheering us both as individuals and the company! It was amazing to hear how many people identified us on the day. Thanks also to Tweedlove and all the amazing volunteers for their hard work in making all this stuff happen!