This week was a complete turnaround: I got through everything on the training plan (third time lucky, but hey), found a beautiful new bike (a Bianchi Impulso), managed to focus at work, and conquered Schiehallion: my cycling nemesis for this year. All-in-all this was the week that I sorely needed, and it felt great to be getting back into the swing of things.
I’m exercising way more than usual – between 2 and 3 times as much as in a usual week – and it’s getting quite addictive. They say that the endorphins released by exercise give a natural high that can become addictive, but I must admit I was sceptical (after all, ‘they’ say a lot of things).
At the end of the week I headed up to Aberfeldy with Edinburgh Triathletes for our spring training weekend. Before joining the club the thought of paying to go somewhere to exercise all weekend would have seemed completely ridiculous to me: why would I voluntarily give up a weekend only to go back to work absolutely cream-crackered? But this one was the third I’ve been on – and now I go very eagerly indeed. They are great events with a good mix of physical effort, talks, and socialising. I find spending time with triathletes is really motivational… there’s something really contagious about this sport for me. For instance, it was at a talk about planning training at our last training weekend that someone managed to convince me I could compete in a half ironman… and here I am.
Aberfeldy is a great spot for a training weekend: we use the self-catering holiday cottages at Moness, the pool at Breadalbane Community Campus, and the beautiful surroundings for running and cycling. I was especially keen to tackle the ascent of Schiehallion – a category 3 climb of approx 1000 feet – as this is part of both the Etape Caledonia and the Aberfeldy Middle Distance triathlon. Schiehallion – ‘the fairy hill of the Caledonians’ in Gaelic, apparently – is a Scottish Munro of 3547 ft/1083 m, but fortunately we only have to cycle up the road, which is considerably lower! The mountain had a good covering of snow this weekend, and looked stunning.
Before this weekend Schiehallion had certainly been weighing on my mind. I had endeavoured to consume the Schiehallion beer brewed by Harviestoun whenever possible, in the hope that this would be a proxy for training on the ascent itself. Maybe those Schiehallion fairies would look more kindly on me for this patronage? Or maybe if I drank enough I would forget all about that damn hill.
Schiehallion the beer (see left) is reputedly crisp, dry and airy. Schiehallion the ascent (see below) also met these criteria, with the added bonus of some lambs and daffodils. (N.B. the weather was dry, but I was not by the top). The 30 minute climb was hard – hill reps on Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh had not prepared me for this – but I managed it, thanks to some judicious words from an aficionado about taking it easy in the early stages. So, roll on Etape Caledonia and the Schiehallion Fairies! I now feel a little more prepared…