Deadlines and I are good friends. So chummy are we, in fact, that I always let them creep really close before tackling the task in hand.
Tests, essays, and, you can probably tell, blog posts: the material is never addressed until a due date looms large, and do finally wins out over die. I just seem to function better beneath the pressure of that big ticking clock; great if I were a Countdown contestant but not such a good strategy for feats of physical prowess.
When I signed up again for this year’s Pedal for Scotland – the 47-mile cycle ride from Glasgow to Edinburgh – I really should have known better than to put my training schedule in the post wearing a second class stamp though. Two weeks before the event and I’d been on my bike a glorious total of twice, with more falls logged than miles. Once again, I was doing the Deadline Dash.
But I’m pleased (and a little stunned) to say, this bag of bruises rolled across the finish line at a quarter after three o’clock on Sunday 7th September 2014, clawing almost two hours off last year’s time, and still with bike-love intact. Hurrah!
So if, like me, you’re always overenthusiastic but underprepared, here are my top tips for the untrained cyclist to make the most of the Pedal for Scotland experience.
- Don’t pack your pride
Unless you’re riding high on a crest of residual fitness, at some point between Clydeside and Morningside, you will be passed by a plucky kid, a unicyclist or a madman in an ostrich outfit. Don’t be alarmed, you may well pass them in turn later down the road, but it’s not a race and whether you’re head to toe in breathable fibres or sweating it up in a sumo suit, everyone’s on the same journey – and Portaloos are life’s great leveller.
- Expect the expected
The road from Glasgow to Edinburgh may well be poker-like as the Scotsman flies, but the Pedal for Scotland route is neither straight nor in any way flat. Don’t expect it to be. Get used to hills and bends because, no matter what that nice guy who did it last year says, this is not the last one – or the worst one – you’ll hit before Murrayfield.
- Take up your bike and walk
So now you know what you’re up against, of course you’ll prepare more thoroughly than this fool, but if you are struggling on the day – and believe me, I did – apply your brakes, ditch your dignity, and tackle those hills on foot. Yes, I know, it’s Pedal, not Perambulate, for Scotland, but there’s no shame in muddying the old shoe leather on some of the more brutal slopes, if you really want to make it to the finish line. Visions of cycling the whole route are all well and good but they won’t revive your legs on that last few punishing miles, if you’ve burnt yourself out before leaving Airdrie.
- Milk it
If you can and do drink the white stuff, you’re in luck. Pedal for Scotland is sponsored by freshnlo, and they don’t scrimp on the freebies. Rest stops are heaving with those cold cartons, and a quick pint might just keep you pedalling for another couple of miles. But cyclist does not live on dairy alone so luckily the regular feed stations are stocked with home baking, bananas, and all the water you can sup, while in the Linlithgow lunch tent a hungry traveller can carb-load on pasta and sandwiches, and throw down a few caramel wafers for dessert. So do your back – and your belly – a favour and don’t carry a three course meal in your rucksack.
- Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your gears
With such volume and variety of cyclists involved, there are bound to be some bike or body shenanigans along the route, and even if you don’t know a derailleur from a defibrillator, just stopping to lend support – or an actual tool – is often enough to get someone back on their way. And you never know how far (or near) down the line you’ll need the karmic refund.
If you’re feeling inspired, you can already sign up for next year’s Pedal for Scotland, then watch that friendly deadline creep ever closer for yourself.