Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Two weeks to go

Toronto, May 29, 2013

Two weeks to go. We only have two more weeks to go until we leave for Scotland. We are trying to be prepared/trained for this trip, but something is always getting in the way. The primary issue for our training (or lack of training) has been he horrible weather here. It has been so rainy and so cold virtually every time we have wanted to ride. Then we have had mechanical problems that have cut rides short. Since my daughter Lauren had our SUV at school until last Sunday, we haven't been able to drive with our bikes anywhere with decent trails (our bike rack only fits on the SUV). Adam has been working, traveling back and forth to NY, and studying for the CFA exam (that is the financial industry's version of a lawyer-to-be bar exam), so time has been an issue for him.

Then there are other issues. Like last weekend for instance. Even though Adam was in NY I thought it would be a good idea to get some training in, so I went with my daughter Lauren to a mountain biking area about 45 minutes away from the house. We found the trails, rode for 4-5 kms and then somehow we lost the trail and had to bushwhack along an incredibly dense mosquito-laden river for over an hour to reconnect with the trail. I fell a couple of times (my mountain biking technique is not very good), smashed my toenail (it is completely black and I am going to lose it for sure), and emerged beaten, scratched, and less confident than before. I forgot to mention that a couple of weeks ago I signed Adam and I up to a mountain bike skills course of 4 sessions designed to ground us in some basic but important techniques. Unfortunately for us, the first 2 sessions got postponed due to the rain. So last night we finally had our first session. 

Sadly, even though our instructor Derek did the best he could, we couldn't even go outside due to torrential rain. We did do an indoor session and even though we were inside, we did learn a lot. Bike set-up, tire pressure (keep them soft for mountain biking), and ride posture were covered. Just as the session was ending, the rain finally let up and we were able to do some riding in the parking lot just to cover the most basic techniques. We learned the "ready position", "ratcheting", and how to properly do a front tire jump. Interestingly, many of the techniques share common themes with road cycling, and anyone who has taken Mike Munk's skill session (like the one we had in Crescent City, CA on the Rode the West trip last September) will relate to some of the stuff we learned last night.

Plus, the equipment and gear is different (and expensive!). Today we have to go get mountain biking shorts and non-clip in shoes. But we are still excited to be going, despite the fact that Ian Peden (an ABB alumni from the 2010 cross-country trip) just posted pictures of snow on the ground in Scotland where we will be riding in 2 weeks. We won't be doing much training in the next few days. The Duchess and I are taking our kids to Vegas to celebrate Lauren and Samantha's 21st birthdays. Now just to prove that I remember how to post a picture to this blog, here is a picture of Lauren from the mountain biking we did last Saturday. More updates to come in the next 2 weeks. 
my adventurous daughter Lauren with me at Hilton Falls
Conservation area before we got lost!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Scotland, here we come (in 3 weeks)!

Toronto, May 23, 2013

Three weeks to go!

Well, it's been a while since I did this. Three years in fact. I hope I haven't forgotten how to write a coherent...a coherent...a coherent sentence. Whew, that was close. I guess I can still write. I started thinking about the 2010 cross-country/North America ride this morning when I decided to blog again about my upcoming mountain bike ride across Scotland with my son Adam in three weeks. A lot has changed since 2010. My kids have all graduated from university. Now that they have graduated, my twin daughters are now actively looking to start their careers. My Dad passed away in 2010, I sold all my businesses in 2012 (yes, I am retired and loving it),  and The Duchess and I undertook an amazing cycling trip down the Pacific Coast last Fall. After we get back from Scotland, Adam will enrol in the Columbia MBA program this August after having worked as a management consultant in Manhattan the past 3 years. 

However some things haven't changed. My favorite sports teams (Leafs, Jays, Bills) still aren't very good (although they are improving), my golf game is barely improving, and despite a lot of time in the gym, my fitness level seems to be at a plateau. We have been trying to get our training in but mountain bike training is different than road bike training. The weather this past spring has been horrible. It has been really cold and wet which makes riding unpleasant. However, while roads do dry fairly quickly after they get wet, mountain bike trails don't, and many trails won't allow you to ride if the track is muddy because it ruins the trail for a while.

Complicating things is the fact that we should have been training over the last 2 months on the weekends but every weekend since the end of March we have been at one of Lauren's softball games either at St. Lawrence (Canton NY, 3.5 hours away), Albany (RPI/Union, 6 hours away), Skidmore (Saratoga Springs, 7 hours away), or Rochester (3.5 hours away). Adam has been working, so weeknights haven't  been great, especially with the weather. We have done what we can, but we have not done enough. We will jam as much training as we can into the next three weeks. We are losing one weekend at the end of May because we are taking the whole family (including Adam's girlfriend Jess) to Vegas to celebrate Lauren and Samantha's 21st birthday. Should be fun, and we are seeing Santana at The House of Blues when we are there (assuming I can get The Duchess away from the craps table).

So here are some details about our upcoming trip. We are flying to Edinburgh Scotland on June 12/13 (overnight), and then taking a train to Inverness. Our ride starts June 15, and is 6 full days of riding. We will average 60 kms of riding/day and the average climbing is 1,000 metres/day. It looks hard. We will apparently be riding through the Highlands of Scotland and the word is that the scenery is spectacular. As well, the tour company says we will be riding some of the finest single-track (trails) in the world. The ride starts on the east coast of Scotland in the city of Aberdeen and ends in Ardnamurchan Point, the westernmost point on the mainland of Scotland. We have heard we are going to be near the Queen's summer home at Balmoral, and that we will be in the vicinity of some of the greatest distilleries in the world. Sounds like a Scotch version of Napa/Sonoma Valley. The tour company we are with is Wilderness Scotland. It is guided and well-staffed. Outside magazine rated this tour as one of the "10 must-do" cycling trips in the world. Should be fantastic. And best of all, I have one of my kids with me! I will be blogging more frequently in the next 3 weeks and then everyday while we are away, so hopefully you can come along for the ride, so to speak.