Sunday, September 04, 2011

A wee Sunday cycle in Shetland

At the finish: Last but only slightly embarrassed
James with his free fish supper and milkshake

Almost over

I felt sick. It could have been the over-abundance of granola and porridge (carb loading, on son James's advice) or simply nerves. This morning was Shetland's, and my, first cycle sportive, in aid of the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea fishermen, organised by local (and Britain's most northerly) chip shop, Frankie's.

I wasn't nervous because I was competing to win the thing. At nearly 56 and a lover of bikes and their ability to get you legally to and from pubs, rather than actual cycling, that was never on the cards. It was just that having been sponsored to the tune of £200, I was very uncertain that I had the stamina or fitness to actually cover the required 40 miles. Yes, there were 10 and 20 mile options, but 40 seemed only right.

James, on the other hand, fresh from a term of fixed-wheel endurance cycling and triathlon training, thought he had a good chance. He wasn't far wrong. Only a half-hour puncture repair hiatus (I had the pump; he had to wait for me, and I was last) stopped him (he claims, and I agree) finishing in the first bunch. He hauled back a good swatch of the field and finished in two and a half hours.

It took me an hour more than that. There was a nasty incident with my rear derailleur (jammed chain) which took 10 minutes of oily hands and swearing to fix. But by the time I'd finished the first 20 miles ( we were doing a double loop from Brae to Voe, then up Dales Lees to Firth, over to Sullom Voe then back to Brae via Voxter; 1000 feet of climbing )I knew I could manage 40, and fuelled by sultana cake and Ribena, I kept going through some of the best Shetland Sabbath summer weather this year.

The wind was as friendly as it could be. The long, near-eternal climb up Dales Lees was unbelievably easy, but by the time Scatsta airport arrived for the second time, the windsock was pointing straight at me and it hurt. Bad windsock!

I was last in of the 40-milers (all of us male, which was surprising; there are some great woman cyclists in Shetland). But I claimed my free fish supper and milkshake with some gusto. Pain? A few back twinges but my 20-year old Brooks B17 saddle had done its job supremely well.

Thanks again to all who sponsored me through Just Giving and with real cash. Finally, some of you may wonder about the choice of RNMDSF as a charity to support. Those who live or have lived in fishing communities won't. The 'Mission' does a unique and wonderful job without any kind of proselytising, and as a journalist reporting on fishing tragedies in Shetland and elsewhere I was always gobsmacked by the commitment and service to the survivors and the bereaved shown by Mission staff.

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