Monday, March 28, 2016

Kielder Ironman Reccee - Celebrating what you came to do then running away - Part I

"I know just the spot" said the campsite warden.

The forecast was for deluges of rain on Saturday so we picked a hardstanding area - one that we could just about get tent pegs in.  I did think it was a little low and a little close to the gravelled driveway that led down to the pitch from the top road but sometimes you take someone's word for it.  He really was a lovely jovial chap so I didn't want to argue and anyway, it was dark.

We went down to the pub for tea (the warden phoned ahead for us) then returned to set up camp and bed down for a very pleasant and quiet night with only a few other campers on site.

In the morning we built the stove then went out in the car to Newcastleton to get groceries, wood for the fire and drink some coffee with a scone.  Then set out on our bikes to access the Ironman course then ride around the main loop of it.  Within 20 minutes we reached the first major climb and both started to sweat profusely.  The sun was properly up and out now and we dressed down to two layers and 3/4 leggings (yes, we'd been wearing a lot more to set out in 6 degrees earlier).

The scenery was just stunning. Miles and miles of open nothingness and beautiful wooded climbs alongside clear rivers.  The road surface was average - a few potholes here and there but on the whole quite smooth.  None of the Scottish gravelly surface I'd had to deal with at Celtman.  I pretty much concluded that much as I was enjoying throwing my cyclo-cross bike about, I'd be just as happy doing 120 miles on the tt bike - even with the hillclimbs (mostly seated) and the occasional pothole or cattlegrid.

We rode to Bonchester Bridge, where we arrived around 12:00 but agreed that we were still working through the morning's scone so we rode the additional 37 minutes to complete the 7.5 mile loop that makes the second loop of the course longer than the first.  At the top of this loop we finally discovered the headwind that had made our morning so easy.  Turning face-on into a hoolie.

Back at Hobkirk and on the main loop, we cut back across to Bonchester Bridge to get some lunch in the largest-looking village on the route.  We plunged down the descent to the Horse and Hound pub (the only place in town) where the owner regretfully informed us that they weren't open until next week and she had no facilities to sort something out for us.  We were redirected to "The Alpine Shop" on our way back to Newcastleton.

We set about riding back up the long climb into the sidewind.  Well at least I now know that is to come on the course! 2 miles of 6% grade but it felt like much more without any lunch inside me.  We turned right and started to stalk the Alpine Shop with minor diversions to look at
The Alpine Shop was a chronic disappointment.  It wasn't a café at all, it was a B&B... and a shop selling alpine trinkets and nonsense and mostly... no-one was home.  My frustration at the owner of the pub only grew but hey, it was only another 12 miles back to the car and the lovely café at Newcastleton.  I kicked myself briefly for not bringing any snacks and for relying on Northumbria to provide some sustenance for us then got on with the ride.  That scone was still going strong.

I dragged TSK back.  I don't think he'll mind me admitting that.  He was carrying my water, tool bag and lock - for which I felt mighty guilty but he seemed to enjoy the extra training.  We concluded that the only food we'd seen on offer on the way round were some raw eggs from a free range farm and there are thick red lines which I draw when it comes to hunger.

We arrived back in Newcastleon a little worse for wear but with the bikes swiftly put away we set off to get lunch at 3pm.

We were all recceid out on the bike and set off back to camp where a good walk through the hills put paid to my desire for a brick session of sorts (the kind you do on a rest week with a sore knee).

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