Today felt different right from the start. After porridge with summer fruit and honey we stood outside the fine and hospitable Sorbietrees B&B as gusts of feather-light midges swerved and bounced their orbits around us. Andy, allergic, made a strong case for this as the origin of Scottish country dancing. “They go for CO2,” he explained. “So don’t breathe out.”
We began with a 700ft climb, which sounds unpalatable, but in the watery early sunshine and with a gradient of 3-4% we tracked through it steadily over the course of five or six miles. I’ve never climbed like that before, having dragged myself up on the sharp up and downs of Devonshire, and it was a revelation. Momentum seems to count for so much and this morning, ticking over at around the 10mph mark, he climb was a positive pleasure. For the first time on the trip we were in empty country with houses only every half mile or so amongst the open landscape and meadowsweet crowding the roadside. We reached the top with dripping foreheads and smiling faces. Then we got to roll downhill for three miles.
We met my friend Calum and his friend Rhys in Melrose, and they set about guiding us into their home town Edinburgh with mixed success. Last time I rode with Calum was in a Polaris mountain bike orienteering event, my abiding memories of which are of us arriving at the top of a tough-won hill only to be told the checkpoint was at the bottom, and of us finishing the day with 80 off-road miles on our scoresheet and me unable to walk. Here’s a tip for you youngsters: if you have to be paired with a Royal Marine for an event like that, make sure he knows how to read a map. Well, form in temporary while class is permanent, as they say, and soon we were slogging up unnecessary slopes in Carrington, or some similar place that wasn’t Edinburgh. “It’s okay!” said Calum, “this way you’ll get to see the Rosslyn Chapel.” We saw the brown sign, at least, and stopped at a corner shop for Tom to have an onion bhajee and chocolate milk, excellent recovery food according to Andy, who any sane man would trust about as far as you could throw his 6ft 4inch frame.
We got to Edinburgh soon enough, in hot sunshine, and Jo was there.
Today seemed to be the most straightforward of the trip so far. It began, we saw some great stuff, climbed some big hills, carried on pedalling and then we were there. I wonder whether, having worked so much stuff through yesterday, i’m finally relaxing into the role. Beautiful scenery aside, today was the first day to feel like a routine ride. That’s not to say it was free from difficulty. The pain in my legs after any stoppage now is pretty intense and can take a couple of minutes to dispel. It comes on so quickly after the first few hours of each ride that even a long downhill freewheel stretch is enough for the toxins to build up in my muscles. I’ve done some shouting to get through it, which doesn’t really help a great deal. I hope this is as bad as it gets.
661 miles down.