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Elaine Muirhead

Summer Challenges 2018

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I’m not sure what the focus of this piece is or who it is aimed at.  Maybe it’s to inspire other women to take on similar challenges.  Maybe it’s just me saying ‘hello’ again and to let you know that I’m looking forward to getting back out with the bunch.  Whatever the reason is, someone suggested that writing a race report would be a good idea.  The only problem is, nothing I did this year was a ‘race’.  I’m not getting bogged down in stats and intricate details.  I am a girl who likes a challenge and I set myself a couple of challenges this summer.  They went something like this.

 August 2018 - Marmotte Pyrenees

160km, 5600 metres ascent

Ramsay and I had already decided to spend this summer in the Pyrenees.  We completed the Marmotte sportive in the Alps last year and loved it.  I knew that they did a similar event out of Argeles Gazost and by chance, it fell within the weeks that we were planning to be there.  The decision was made and we were signed up.  Unfortunately for Ramsay, his knee went again in June and he knew that he would not be ready to ride again for months.

We knew that a bunch of Wheelers were out riding too and Ramsay really enjoyed supporting everyone on the day (tonnes more photos of the boys on the Tourmalet than me, which is not a bad thing)!  It may sound selfish, but I knew that in order to make it to the finish at the top of Luz Ardiden, I just had to do my own thing and plod away at my own pace.  I love alpine climbs.  I love the challenge and the sense of accomplishment when you get to the top of those infamous Cols.  The scenery is spectacular and the baguettes with camembert at the pit stops are perfect!  I don’t know whether being a women helps.  I had so many shouts of “allez allez femme” which was brilliant.  Having spoken to some of the boys at the BBQ and confessed our body weights, being a women of a smaller stature, certainly helps when you are climbing an average gradient of 10% for several hours!  Yes, it was tough.  Yes, there were times when I asked myself why I was doing this.  It certainly felt harder than the Alps last year, but finishing was never in doubt.  After a hot shower and a good night’s sleep, the legs had recovered and I enjoyed ticking off so many more of those famous climbs during our time in the Pyrenees.

I can honestly say that one of the highlights was meeting up with the guys the following night for a BBQ.  Great food, lots of wine, even more beer and brilliant banter.  It reminded both Ramsay and I why we joined the club in the first place.  Thank you!


September 2018 – Around the World in a Day

245 miles from Machrihanish to Aberdeen, ~ 3500 metres ascent

 Then came the second challenge of the summer.  In 2017, Mark Beaumont set off to cycle around the world in 80 days.  He achieved this by riding an average of 240 miles per day.  The concept for this challenge was to have one rider to represent each day (80 riders in total) and us all to cycle 240 miles.  Hence, ‘Around the World in a Day’!  The day was planned exactly as Mark had ridden around the world.  Four times four hour sections of riding (approx. 60 miles per section) with a 30 minute stop in between (Furnace, Lochearnhead and Forfar).  The route started in Machrihanish and headed north through Ardishaig, before heading north east to Inverary and Dalmally.  We then turned east across the country to Forfar with the final stretch up the north east coast through Stonehaven to Aberdeen.

was one of ten female riders to start and one of eight to finish.  I had ridden 184 miles as a reccie earlier in the summer and only hoped that my weeks in the Pyrenees helped with final preparations and the final miles.  It was a typical Scottish day.....started cold, dark, wet and windy.  The sun came out briefly in the afternoon before it got cold, dark, wet and windy again.  My strategy was to keep a high cadence during the day and shelter within the bunch as much as possible.  I managed a few turns at the front and myself and a couple of the girls led the group for a few minutes when the boys stopped for a pee. Oh how we laughed!!  For the majority however, the boys looked out for us and made sure we were safely tucked in as much as possible.

The last 30 miles were probably the hardest miles I have ever ridden.  It was a rollercoaster of highs and lows and all I wanted was to be warm and horizontal!  I stepped off the bike in Aberdeen and was shaking with cold and exhaustion.  I thought I was either going to be sick or faint or both.  I admit, I cried when Ramsay came to give me a cuddle and it took me some time to reach the “that was an amazing experience” feeling.    But again, after two hot showers and a good night’s sleep, I woke up feeling ok and began to appreciate what had happened the day before. 

I guess that’s how I get through any of these challenges.  I know that even when it feels brutal and you hurt all over, it doesn’t last.  You will recover and you will get back on the bike again......quickly.  I don’t consider myself a powerful rider or a fast rider.  I don’t glide up the ascents.   I bob about in the saddle and do everything you shouldn’t!  I am a steady rider who is happy to tap away at the miles at my own pace.  In saying that, I didn’t just walk in to these events having done nothing.  I put the effort, the hours and the miles in this year.  If I’m honest, I did very little other than cycle and work for most of the summer!

It’s been a while, but I will be back out with the bunch again soon, enjoying the Sunday runs around Renfrewshire and beyond.  I’m looking forward to not just the training (must work on that power output over the winter), but for the banter and the camaraderie.  Hope to see you all soon.   


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