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enthDegree Cycling Blog

Faith, Hope & Glory? Part 3

cycle Posted on Wed, April 04, 2018 21:09:51

Here’s a starter for ten. I’m just throwing some shapes because I can and I have the freedom to do so. So bear with me…

Faith x Hope + Glory = Result

I don’t like the word “Glory”. For me it conjures up negative connotations such as Expectation and Ego. Hence,

Faith x Hope + Expectation + Ego = Result

I wonder (if there’s any validation in the above) if we could apply this simple equation to anything? But this is a cycling blog and so for one final time let’s concentrate on racing.

I’ve said before I race in hope and not expectation as I believe expectation takes away from the result and Ego impedes the outcome.

Faith x Hope = Result – Expectation – Ego

I don’t have time for Ego; I prefer negative Ego (i.e. Humility). But that’s me going off an a tangent…again.

Back to the equation. If Ego is zero.

Faith x Hope = Result – Expectation

I must confess last season in the CTT Scottish 25 mile championship I expected the wunderkind John Archibald to race. I was quite excited at the prospect at racing the best short distance time triallist in the country and wanted to see if I could win, close the gap or get a faster time. I believed any of those options if not all three were achievable and I hoped at least one of them to come true.

But none of them did and that for me took away something from the outcome.

The same happened later in the summer after successfully defending the Wheelers Classified 10 mile TT. I had the expectation that I would go sub 20 as I was getting into optimal form for the National 50 mile TT where I had a very beady eye on my hero, Graeme Obree’s 25 year record and this was the focus of my entire season.

On the Drumoak course where I had the course record (20:04) I was a minute slower on my predicted time and 50 watts off my best optimal power. Ok I wasn’t aware that the squares I’d been pedalling prior to the race was because I was fighting off a virus that I’d caught off one my friends I’d been mountain biking with two weeks prior. Luckily for me I wasn’t seriously hospitalised with it! Thankfully, she made a full recovery. Phew! Friends and health are much more important than racing bikes.

At the SC National 25 mile TT championship I didn’t have any expectations and the results were astonishing and on par with Mark McGhee’s photographs (above). Yes, I came 2nd to the wunderkind (but remember I race for performances not position) but not only did I witness a historic performance from John who obliterated Obree’s Scottish record, I too smashed my own Vets record by over a minute. It was a memorable day and one of the few occasions I genuinely felt pleased with my efforts.

So without expectation we can now simplify the equation…

Faith x Hope = Result

Remove all manner of Expectation and Ego and focus on Faith and Hope.

In 2016 I read multi Scottish and British TT champion Chris Smart’s interview with Ed Hood at Veloveritas on the 19” club. Chris’s response was slightly tetchy. I had no idea why, he was only a few seconds away. I had come second in that race to Chris only 8 seconds off his championship winning time (John was 7th) and on that Dundee course, even though it’s not particularly fast I didn’t see why I couldn’t knock at least 44 seconds off my own PB. After a further three attempts at Ethiebeaton (having the pleasure of meeting and racing against Mark Stewart in one of the meets) I made it into the 19” club as only the 10th person in Scottish history. Chris and John followed quickly within the next 10 days. Scottish time trialling was in rude form!

On the day my main rival Chris wrote himself brilliantly into history once again posting 19:50 at Eglington I did too by smashing the 100 mile Scottish record on the A90.

How did I do it? At a high level it was very straight forward. I failed to see why I couldn’t do it and had high hopes I would. I didn’t overthink it, I just did it. I also got a huge wave of negative expectation on the morning prior to the race to the point where for a split second I was mentally destroyed by silly superstition. I picked myself up and reminded myself that I never quit. Period. I turned the negative Expectation into positive energy. And with that it became the easiest race of my brief career. At the Strathcarthro turn with 90 miles in the legs with no food, knowing I had the record in sight, I had a mouthful of water, cranked it to well over 300 watts and hammered it home.

I try and coach this simple philosophy into my clients which is why I’m no longer coaching individuals and only mentoring. It’s because most of them have expectations and I can’t manage them because I can’t control the outcome. I’m a human being with many faults of his own not a wizard. What will be will be and there are no guarantees I tell them. It’s not an easy sell and I find people with expectations are never happy and often disappointed.

There are exceptions, thankfully. A couple of year’s ago I coached a brilliant young man who listened and carried out everything we discussed. It was challenging for a number of reasons. One – he was a teenager. Two – he is bright sausage but needed to apply himself academically in order to get to University (having not done as well as expected the previous year). Three – all he wanted to do was ride and race his bike. Four – he is a very talented bike racer with huge potential. His parents asked me to prioritise his studies whilst acknowledging his love of the bike and racing. I devised a cunning plan. But first I had to get him to buy into my philosophy, starting with removing all weight of expectation. I had complete and utter faith in him and we hoped for the best results. The season had barely started and he had already gained his Cat 2 license which meant he could buckle down with his studies and spend the summer terrorising fellow racers which is exactly what he did as he had nothing to lose. He simply applied the formula in its simplest form. No expectations. And he delivered results an all fronts!

But there’s more to it than that. As already mentioned Expectations can be negative. For example someone said to me in 2016 that I was too old to post a 19” for 10 miles in Scotland and that you can’t be fast over all distances.

Let’s go back to the equation and refine it by re-introducing Expectation albeit in a negative sense…

Faith x Hope – Expectation = Result

Moving Expectation…

Faith x Hope = Result + Expectation

And so when folk try to put “negative” expectations into my head it only makes the outcome sweeter or mathematically more accurately, greater. Add a bit of Humility and you can increase the outcome further.

But it’s not just detractors who put negative expectations into my head I deliberately from time to time I do that myself. At the start of last season I asked myself was it possible to do a massive endurance race and expect to perform the next day? The devil on my shoulder said no.

We’ll see, said the angel on the other shoulder.

So the day before the season’s Scottish National TT opener – Tour of the Meldons, I decided to do a 200km off road “gravel race” the day before. 9 hours of non-stop pedalling. I was told I was utterly mad and no way would I be able to perform and live up to being one of the pre-race favourites.

I would never find out as I punctured after 5 minutes, but the data from the race indicated that I was onto something very encouraging. In fact it verified a study that Finnish company Omegawave had carried out on my HR data after one of my Strathpuffer 24 hour races – they basically said I was an uber-fit aerobically gifted individual who had an incredible capacity to recover very quickly. I didn’t believe them initially, but over time I wondered…what if they were right?

That was the first race in what would eventually become my final season. I didn’t realise it would be the Tour of the Trossachs where I would eventually find my Holy Grail, be genuinely satisfied and prove once and for all that performance means more to me than position. I finished 7th in that race. I believed that despite having done the Tour de Ben Nevis MTB race the previous day (8 hours in the saddle), I was more than capable of performing and despite a dead arm that nearly rendered me useless in the middle of the night and dealing with the mental fatigue of a long season with many miles and too many nights in the van, I told myself one last hurrah and then I’m done for the season.

And even though it was written that I was having a bad day, it was quite the contrary. I was having a blinder. As Strava shows, I was not even having a shocker either. I was damn quick and often the fastest on key climbs and sections. In fact when I finished the race, I’d warmed up and felt I could go round again! I was a bit baffled with the general feedback and so I’ve just got round to analysing the Trossachs data and as the stats show I was in optimal 50 and 100 miles TT form. Just a shame that those particular National races where I was defending champion got postponed three times and eventually cancelled!

And on that note I am completely satisfied with what I’ve achieved. I’m pleased to say I’ve scratched the surface and that’s all I really wanted – to prove I had the potential that I never got the chance with football or Meteorology. At the third time of trying something I believed I was capable and hoped I could deliver, I finally realised that potential.

Happy to say – I’m done. Over and out. No peaking, no troughing, no plateauing, no impediments (out of my control) that plagued every single race in 2017 and made time trialling feel as variable and frustrating as road racing.

Not so much as quitting when you’re ahead as I’m still on the ascendency, but more like going out on a high. Peace, karma, happiness – all thanks to the simple joy of riding a bike for fun.

P.S :: This is the last post. Thank you for reading and your support over the years. As always there are (often silent) hecklers and tut-tutters who sit in the background or hide behind their computers, phones, Kindles and tablets and contribute nothing positive – this post is dedicated to you.

Faith, Hope & Glory? Part 2

cycle Posted on Tue, April 03, 2018 12:34:31

I like solving problems. I like fixing things. I like adventure and I like exploring. I’m a curious egg.

I also learn the hard way. And I don’t know when I’m beaten. I don’t give up. Period.

But some problems cannot be solved. And some things can’t be fixed. Curiosity killed the cat. Not everything is black and white. There are two sides to every story. No one’s perfect.

There is no glory in letting go, but sometimes you need to have faith in letting go and hope it’s the right decision. Go with your instincts, trust your intuition.

As my better half tells me, change the things you can, accept the things you can’t and learn to tell the difference…

Like I said, I’ve learned the hard way. Not any more.


Faith, Hope & Glory? Part 1

cycle Posted on Mon, April 02, 2018 12:52:34

It’s been a conclusive couple of weeks. There’s an air of convergence and finality. Things feel like they are spiralling to a close. There are pointers everywhere I look.

Starting with the bad. Steven Hawking recently passed away. I thought he was going to live forever. They say folk only say good things about you at your funeral. But Professor Hawking had defied all expectations and lived to a ripe old age. Because of his iconic demeanour I was constantly in awe of what he achieved whilst he was alive, theories and everything.

Unlike cyclists, I’ve never really met any famous physicists though I had the pleasure of attending lectures given by Professor Higgs (before he became famous out-with the Physics community) whilst studying at Edinburgh University. I attended his introduction to General Relativity and decided Fluid Dynamics was more my thing. And this was when I met Professor Clive Greated.

Clive was a complete and utter conundrum which is why I respect him so much. Underestimate him (and many did) at your peril. Clive wasn’t so much a nutty Professor, just a complete nutter. Sometimes you would struggle to to believe he was a Professor, let alone in Physics, let alone in one of the most challenging branches of Physics – Fluid Dynamics. He had a positive outlook, huge smile and said “Yes” to anything by default. For this reason people took him for granted. I too got frustrated with him and yes, I took him for granted too. My PhD was going nowhere. I had little to no direction from Clive and decided to learn Russian at the University’s night classes just to stop me from going insane. I was expecting him to hand me my PhD on a plate. One of my flatmates was a chemist and all she had to do was turn up at 9am, leave at 5pm, do what her supervisor instructed and ta-da after three years of wash, rinse, repeat – PhD!

Not with Clive, no Sir. After two years of arsing about I was going nowhere fast. More frustration with a severely banjo-ed knee that ended any dwindling hope of a late football career and ACL reconstruction beckoned (and I still can’t bend my leg right beyond 90 degrees), which meant mountain biking was off the cards as was the daily cycle to the campus and home.

The rehab taught me a lot. Discipline, determination, motivation, faith and hope. There would be no glory. I would no longer be a two footed footballer and at 27 years old, I would never play at a level I believed I could attain.

Acceptance, accountability, ownership. Time to grow up Mr Entwistle!

That was a seminal moment. At that point, I’d chanced it and got away with doing just about enough to get by. But now I had to take responsibility for myself and my own actions. I saw things from a completely different perspective. I somehow managed to pull my head out of my own ass and everything smelled of roses instead of manure.

So, I devised my own PhD. I collaborated with other institutions and I jumped on a plane and delivered my research on secondary cell turbulence to a audience of glum looking Russians in St Petersburg who just stared at me with little or no emotion and certainly no questions. I organised my own travel, got my own Visa and travelled on my own. Clive “just” signed everything off and gave me a few tips and pointers and wished me the best of luck. Little did I know.

Within a year I was back walking again (albeit with a limp) sitting in my PhD viva with Clive and an external examiner who said it was one of the best PhD theses he’d ever read and congratulated me on taking the hard option with saddling myself with different branches of physics (optics, CFD, mechanics) when I could have easily gone for the “conveyor belt” option (i.e. read someone’s thesis and repeat/refine/evolve). And because I hadn’t taken a trip down easy street I’d found something that theory and mathematics predicted but no-one had managed to successfully measure.

Not quite the Higgs boson. Ha, far from it! There was no Nobel Prize for this totally insignificant contribution to physics, but it was worthy of a doctorate and a career in fluid dynamics beckoned with funding secured to investigate and understand the Physics of oceanic oil slicks. For once I was in demand and for once I felt I’d achieved something good and for once I felt I’d done something useful. More importantly I’d learned a lot about myself.

But I couldn’t have done it all without my colleagues, friends, family and of course, Professor Greated. He was not so much my PhD supervisor, but my mentor. I didn’t do it all myself, I did it with the subtle genius of Clive. Whenever you went to see him, he would always help you, steer you in the right direction, encourage you and support you without taking any of the credit. He would never hassle you or manage you either. He left you to your own devices and let you get on with it. If you needed him, his door was always open.

He was a generous, funny and warm man. He must be the only guy that hates fireworks but would have a massive party at his house on Guy Fawkes’ night complete with his own jazz band and super high jinks. We supplied the beer, tobacco, industrial sized rockets and air bombs. Clive’s parties were the highlight of the year and Clive’s brilliant wife was the perfect hostess. Fun, laughter and passing out in his garden was guaranteed.

I once tried to invite him to one of our soirees as a way of a thank you. He seemed a bit reluctant. In retrospect I didn’t blame him. Physics in the 90s was predominantly male (probably still is) and so were our parties. He had better things to do than hang out with a bunch of scruffy blokes drinking wine so cheap it came in a plastic bottle (we joked it was a Spanish vintage called “Dom Es Tos”). He was always so far ahead of us and his answer was utter genius…

“Are there going to be any birds there?” he said with the grin of a smiling assassin. It was a gentle put down, mischievous, wonderfully ironic and like Clive, utterly unpredictable.

Along with Professor Hawking, Clive passed away last month. The universe has two more stars from the Physics world and it has taken nearly twenty years to realise…

sometimes we only appreciate things when they’re gone – me included.

Bike Box Hels

cycle Posted on Fri, March 23, 2018 12:58:32

I’m not a fan of acronyms, though I do like FOMO and JOMO and KISS. The latter is particularly apt and thankfully reflects my life these days, well mostly.

I’m writing this as I sit on an aircraft whose operator seems to make things unnecessarily complicated. You can now pay for the privilege of queuing to the board the plane before everyone else! I preferred not to pay and instead watched the elderly gentlemen get his money’s worth by standing at the front of his own queue 20 minutes prior to priority boarding. And we all left Malaga at the same time. Genius.

Fortunately this was the only part of the week away where JOMO once again trumped FOMO and KISS was the order of every day. From simple car hire to lighting fires, hot baths, going out for dinner and of course riding bikes on empty roads full of eye boggling vistas.

And this is what makes me chuckle as only a couple of months ago, I was cursing myself for not speaking up and going against my own policy of never ever taking a bike on a plane.

Why? I much prefer to hire a bike. It gives me the opportunity to broaden my knowledge and test out different brands. The Rose road bikes we hired from were exemplary and not even carbon! Much better than the Pinerello Rokh that I hired in Mallorca at the same time last year!

But back in January, I was accompanying my better half at a Vet conference in South Wales. Hels had taken the initiative to book my bike with the plane ticket. My heart sank when she told me this. I’d spent all winter riding a 14kg steel supertanker and after the Puffer exploits a couple of weeks prior in forever sub-zero temperatures I was looking forward to packing my hiking boots and heading for the Brecon Beacons instead.

I tried to body swerve the issue and raised the issue that it would be “easier” to hire a bike than take one on board (knowing fine I would struggle to hire one in Newport). Unfortunately, Helen was too quick, she’d decided to book her bike on too making the fair assumption that South Wales would be tropical compared to permafrost Aberdeenshire. I convinced myself that was a solid argument.

So better buy another bike box then!

Packing it was straight forward enough, if a tad time consuming. No it’s a bloody faff!

Then as we approached Aberdeen airport it made sense to drop me off at the terminal whilst Hels took the car to the offsite parking. More time faffing.

And then you have to check it in. And then it has to be weighed and then dragged to the oversize baggage check. I say dragged as the “bargain” bike box I’d bought had no pulling handle. No seriously!

At Bristol airport we then had to wait till the end of the baggage reclaim as oversized items seem to come out last. A few eyebrows were raised and I was already losing the will to live.

“What you got in there mate” asked some bloke who seems as amused for some reason as his blokey entourage.

“Dead body”, I replied dead pan. I wasn’t in the mood for being the butt of some laddish tomfoolery that I detected was brewing.

That killed the atmosphere and conversation once and for all. And it made me smile inwardly. Nice to have the last laugh for once.

And then I had to drag this stupid bike box out of Bristol airport, which like most small airports of yesteryear weren’t designed to accommodate more than eight passengers at a time and was undergoing a massive renovation with either Mad Max or Tank Girl winning the contract, judging by the fact there was more random carbuncle construction than actual airport!

Our mission was to collect our oversized hire car. Yes we had to change the booking in order to accommodate two bike boxes.

The bigger car was at the big car depot on the other side of the rabbit warren that is Bristol airport. So we dragged/wheeled the boxes to the other depot in the peeing rain and stinging cold going off-piste at one point (i.e. there was no path, Max hadn’t thought of that). At this point I had the Smiths song “This joke isn’t funny anymore” and wondered if the bike box had been designed by Jeremy Clarkson. Naturally I’m giving the petrolhead a disservice because if he took his talents to bike box design the first thing he would have given in to would be a bloody handle to drag the damn box. Wheels at the front would have been more than useful too.

Eventually we arrived at our destination, Celtic Manor, and there was no time left in the day to even consider cycling. Thank God.

The next day I had the task of building up both bikes, doing long shuttle runs and wheeling/dragging the bike boxes across a fancy golf course and up to some double digit floor to our room.

A bit of a chew, but job done.

Now to construct the bikes. Easy for platinum qualified bike mechanic and instructor?


Never in my life have I managed to jam an allen key in a bolt, but as the photo shows, I somehow spectacularly managed it. Thankfully the derailleur was the last component that needed the attention of the three-pronged allen key and so I decided that as long as it didn’t impede my pedal stroke, I was going to ride the bike regardless – particularly after all the time and effort just to get the bikes ride ready.

My partner in crime decided to cut short the afternoon lectures in order to get outside and make the most of the dwindling January light.

Eventually we managed to negotiate our way around the golf course and out on to the crowded narrow country road full of pot holes and gremlins.

I had a vague idea where to head and thankfully found a small trunk road which ran parallel to the dual carriageway and the constant rushing of cars and road buzz.

Having spent the past three months riding our iron supertankers the pace picked up and we were heading uphill into a slight headwind at well over 30kph – ah just like the good old days of last Autumn!

I was about to burst with relief and happiness at such a simple pleasure when Hels made a comment about the hedges being too high (and hence a feeling of apparent danger) and she didn’t feel any fitter or faster on her carbon steed (she doesn’t do technology in any way so didn’t have the benefit of my numbers).

For the second time my heart sank. I was expecting a fellow whoop of joy in joyless January.

I kept quiet, denying myself of any retort. Hoping it would dissipate as the ride continued.

But as dusk turned into darkness it started to manifest. Will this bloody woman EVER be happy on a bike I started to ask myself? What is wrong with her? We are blessed, lucky, we are fit, healthy and we are having the time of our (brief) lives.

Long time dead you know.

As darkness fell and temperatures dropped to Aberdeenshire standards, the roads started to clog up as they do in that part of the world that isn’t the ’Shire. My hands were getting cold as I was increasingly having to stop and contrive a route back to the golf course hotel complex.

We stopped in a pub car park. Helen having a very good sixth sense could read my mood and even worse my inner thoughts.

What is the problem, she asked? We’re brutally honest people, so I gave her the full works. You don’t bullshhhh Hels, she can sniff it before you even think about it.

And so we had a very diplomatic lover’s tiff. I got cross. Not with her, with myself and the situation we were in and only a mile from the hotel with a dinner dance increasingly looming. I felt bad for both of us and very frustrated at our situation.

As my blood boiled over I took it out on the stupid three-pronged allen key stuck in my rear mech and stupidly snapped the damn thing in the process.

Game over!

Silly boy…

Yep, I guess, but I’m cold and fed up. This was suppose to be a liberating ride but I felt nothing but imprisoned from the first moment I packed the bloody bike. It was all my doing and I literally held my hands up, apologising for being an industrial dip stick and felt oddly relieved that I could no longer ride my bike.

So, Hels to the rescue then!

Unfortunately, she has no sense of direction and the tech on the iPhone wasn’t helping, so I applied KISS once again and showed her how to get back to the hotel by raising an index finger up a steep, dark hill on a narrow road with high hedges and said, “Up there. One mile as the crow flies”. And off she went, gliding up the gradient as effortlessly and graceful as always.

I waited and waited in a dark dank car park, getting colder and colder.

Message from Helen – she couldn’t get into the complex via the gate we left so had to climb a fence instead but she’s back in the room having negotiated conference rush hour in crowded hotel lifts. Mission Impossible theme tune appeared on my inner Jukebox and made me smile.

And so I waited and waited in a dark dank car park, getting colder and colder.

Another message – eventually Hels had found an exit out of Celtic Manor but had forgotten to bring the parking ticket with her, so had to trape back to the room, get ticket, pay for ticket and now, finally, she can come and pick me up.

I was beginning to wonder which was less likely to result in death, walking up that steep hill with high hedges and no pavement at rush hour or freezing to my final conclusion in the car park?

I didn’t want to go into the pub either. I was turning into a right mardy bum. I decided I’d rather die a martyr in the car park and pay for my crimes in a noble manner. Who knows, maybe they will name the car park even after me? It did smell a bit of wee (admittedly my own, ahem), so it would be quite apt.

Message from Helen – on my way! I checked to see where she was via the app I have on my phone. Um, heading east in the opposite direction towards Bristol on the Motorway. She’s had enough. Don’t blame her. It will be a slow death.

After all I deserve to die in this car park (which will soon be named after me) – he died for his services to cycling…

Eventually after an hour of tap dancing and amusing early evening revellers in the car park with my story, Helen finally arrived and I told her about my virtual martyrdom and we just laughed and laughed and laughed all the way to the dinner dance and long into the night.

But we were far from done. Whilst cycling was definitely off the cards due to one very broken bike, but we now had to dissemble them in order to get them into the bike boxes. Not possible when the tool that you need is embedded in a broken rear derailleur that resembles a poor imitation of Boudica’s chariot!

Surely someone in the megalithic golfing complex would have a multi tool? The polite and well trained receptionists didn’t quite catch my drift.

“No I don’t need a number 4 and 5 iron. I need a 4 and 5 millimetre allen key”.

It felt more like 5 off the tee. I was trying and trying but getting increasingly nowhere and frustrated again. I was officially losing the will to live. It wasn’t their fault. I guess they are used to fat golfers (I use to be one) walking the corridors. Not fit cyclists.

They suggested the Spa club. I wasn’t quite planning on giving my CX bike a facial and massage but it was worth a pop.

I asked for the manager and lo and behold he had a Park Multitool. Breakthrough.

An hour later I was wheeling/dragging the bike boxes one by one across the path that splits the elevated green from the 18th tee.

Job done. For now…

We had an evening with friends looming and the prospect of going for a Sunday ride was as appealing as the south west mizzle which seemed to follow us all the way from South Wales to Bath. A day later and Hels this time had dropped me at she thought was the front door to the terminal at Bristol airport. Judging by all the other passengers, no one seemed sure where the terminal building was. The huge din of planes taking off into the mist gave the impression that we were actually at an airport, so I started dragging/wheeling again and followed the hordes. I was hoping a portal in the space-time continuum would open up and transport me, the boxes and Hels back to our sofa and put the fire on for us.

That daydream was burst when Helen messaged me again.

It was a 50:50 shout, the solid logic of taking the oversized car back to the depot she drove it out of on Thursday night was a good call. But no, it should have been returned to the MAIN depot. It took her another half hour to get out of one car park, realising she had to pay to get out at the barrier, but not having the correct coinage. Time was running out and we had to check our bags and bike boxes quick smart.

At the check-in we were informed that only one bike box was booked on the plane. That’s ok, I said in my head, I will leave mine in the middle of the terminal and happily watch security blow it up!

But it was my box that had been checked in. An argument was brewing with the airline staff about the other bike box. I started looking for that space-time continuum portal again. Surely Tank Girl has one planned for this airport? Probably, but “under construction”, obviously.

Eventually we arrived back at Aberdeen “International” airport which makes Bristol look like Schiphol. Whilst I waited with the bike boxes collected, Hels had to wait for the courtesy bus to take her to the off-site car park in order to come back for me and the boxes.

Tick, tock, freezing rain. I stared down at my hiking boots and grinned at the simple and beautiful irony.

Total ride time in the past four days…1 hour 34 minutes. Total amount of time and money just to ride the aforementioned 1 hour and 34 minutes?

Don’t get me started!

Four For Tango

cycle Posted on Sat, January 27, 2018 14:32:03

Thirteenth Puffer
– lucky for some?

I believe you make your own luck. Of course there are exceptions and we all know at least one jammy individual who has by-passed meritocracy, whose toast always lands butter side up and everything seems to go their way. But then, natural justice always prevails. The universe has a canny way of balancing out these things just like truth always overcomes evil and the good will out.

Anyway, we all know fortune favours the brave and on a seriously snowy sub-zero Saturday in mid January two sisters followed in their father’s footsteps and had a go without a care in the world of what would happen next. Best way to race. As my soulmate says “Be the best you can be”. Results, times and positions are just a way of creating a superficial pecking order for egotists. I firmly believe it’s all about personal performance, not global positioning.

And our two wee girls performed to the best of their ability at Strathpuffer 2018. The eldest, Katie, now just about a teenager had done zero Puffer training, bar a Friday evening a week before the Puffer when we tested out the gear with Barbara and had an ace sleepover at her and Ian’s munching on kebabs and slurping home brew, red wine and fizzy juice. Her sister two years her junior, Lucia spends most of her free time making pop videos on her iPhone. Thank God they’re enrolled with the Scouts and play on their trampoline. We wish we could have more time with them.

So when they stood on the podium finishing the Puffer in second place with 4 laps each in their legs, cumulatively over 100km of riding and nearly 3000 metres of climbing in physically demanding conditions where it is only light for 7 hours, was I surprised? Not really.

I always eat my dog food. And I’ve always told them the same old mantra…

“Aim for Jupiter and you might get to the moon”.

It’s all about positive energy and mindset. Nothing is impossible when there is hope and not expectation. Dream big and see what happens. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Those who try to impede you are jealous and have nothing to offer the human race because they are worthless and want you to be too. Don’t listen to the naughty kids in the classroom, who have no ambition of their own and therefore don’t want you to better yourself, listen to the teacher who wants to see you strive.

Lucia, a serial worrier, was anxious that The Adventure Show may not show their interviews with Dougie and Andy if they came last. Hels blew that one out of the water.

“Even if you do come last, you’ve beaten all those who didn’t turn up, who don’t have your courage and opt for a box set of excuses instead”.

And they didn’t come last, far from it. But that doesn’t matter, because in the eyes of Helen and I, even if they did come last, they are true champions, because they challenged themselves, were willing to get out of their comfort zone and they are much better human beings for it. The world is a terrible place, as I’ve unfortunately and naively found out to my chagrin – full of narcissists, machiavellians, sociopaths, sadists or combinations of all four (the dark tetrad my psychology course informs me), but these innocent, open, kind, generous, funny and inspiring wee lassies are a credit to mankind because I said so (and I’m biased).

On a lighter note – back to the race.

It may have been the thirteenth Puffer, but the number 4 seemed to pop up all over the place. Just shy of becoming a Super Veteran (he clearly had an easy paper round), Keith Forsyth charged his way to his fourth consecutive solo title, giving both girls huge shouts as he always does as he passed us like he’d been fired out of gun. When Lucia was being interviewed by Andy at the top of the fire road, Keith had me in fits with a “Go the mighty Entwistles!” shout as the light came up and KFC started to override Jelly Babies in Lucia’s mind – so Jason Miles helped me polish them off as the race was drawing to a close in addition to the Drambuie I’d left out for him on a seat by the van, closely guarded by Kermit the Frog. You had to be there, the Puffer throws up a lot of randomness because the whole event feels like a modern day Lewis Carroll novel. Jason, a two-time solo winner of this race (and outright on a singlespeed) just like Keith, was supremely supportive and encouraging of the girls as he too passed us on many occasions, often stopping for a quick chat, or riding with us for a section. That’s the thing with the top guys and girls, they are respectful of all riders regardless of ability, unlike a number of Jason and Keith wannabes who were quite intimidating, particularly to Lucia. Thankfully, Lucia had Helen to sort them out. “You’re not going to win” she shouted at one idiot. Don’t mess with Hels, she (mercifully) killed another deer last week on the way to work that had been critically injured and had created a traffic standstill. It must be hard being a vet as you must be hard at times to be a vet.

Back to the number 4. Even though the girls shared the family heirloom – the Kona MuniMula, 4 different people have raced that bike at Puffer. Mike Dennison was looking in fine form for his fourth Puffer, two years after getting a new hip a month after he and I came third in the pairs in 2016.

Emily Murphy and ace buddy Richard Lawes secured 4th solo place in their first 24 hour race and this year Barbara assembled an all female quad team (who came last in their category and frankly didn’t care) had a hoot – I know this because we were parked next to them! Barbara‘s better half, Ian Taylor rounded off the 4 soloists I was keeping an eye out, with an amazing 10 laps. Rival time triallist and runner up at the Scottish National hill climbing championships, Liam Beaty stopped for a chat in seemingly disbelief (I don’t know why), he and his team had won the male quad competition. Awesome to the power of 4!

It was a Puffer that will last long in the memory – from Lucia making Dougie Vipond a cup of tea in her kitchen on Friday morning to the four of us sharing a post Puffer KFC family bucket on Sunday in Inverness complete with a huge bottle of a popular orangey fizzy juice and four cups.

4 for Tango.

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