The Toughest Challenge

“I think I’m being followed.”

Sovev Yerushalayim (“Around Jerusalem”) is a mountain biking event that was originally started as part of the celebrations to mark the opening of the Tachanah (“Station”) complex in Jerusalem, where the old Ottoman era train station was. It has continued each year since then, with a range of events – 8, 20, 40, and 50 km – to suit riders of all abilities.

Susan, Shosh and I have habitually done the 40 km event, starting and returning to the Tachanah, and feeling totally exhausted. Last year, Susan suggested we should aim to do the 50 km event in 2018. So, that’s what we decided to, though I was fearful that the extra 10 km was a bit too much.

Then real life interfered:

First, Susan had too many bouts of illness to properly train, so it was left to Shosh and me to live up to Susan’s suggestion!

Second, the event was postponed from 27 April (due to bad weather) to 11 May. It was bound to be hotter.

Third, they changed the route to keep us away from the Tachanah and the center of Jerusalem. Instead, we started and finished at the zoo. It was a much harder route even without the extra 10 km.

So, on the day, Shosh and I turned up ready for the 6.45 AM start we had in our welcome pack. Unbeknownst to us, the organizers had brought the start forward for the 50 km riders to 6.30 AM. As we were late, and ignorant of this, it meant we were caught in the much bigger mass of 40 km riders. The effect was to slow us down. Not that we would have been riding too much faster, but we would have avoided the stop-start delay at various choke points on the route, where the trails were not wide enough for everyone to pass at the same time.

The 50 km route included a circular 10 km add on to the 40 km route. When we eventually got to the start of that add on, many of the 50 km riders were finishing it. Needles to say, the add on was 10 km of hard, mostly uphill riding. And the sun was starting to make its presence felt.

Between gasps for breath and prayers for the pain to stop, I could admire the beautiful scenery: stunning views, fantastic panoramas, a glorious impossibly blue sky, and the buzz of a great biking event. Then back to the pain… Keep pedaling!

Shosh and I persevered, helping one another keep going until, eventually, we made it to the finish.

At the end, having long since drunk my water dry, I gladly accepted a bottle of water thrown to me by the staff at the finishing line. I took off the top and poured it over me. Unfortunately, the bottle had clearly been out in the heat too long, because it gave me a hot shower. Oh dear. Well, you cannot get everything you want, can you?

I was so exhausted, that I could not raise my bike enough to get it on the bike rack. I had to put it down and grab a five minute nap, to add a little charge to my drained batteries. I also drove home much more slowly than usual, conscious that I was not at my most alert.

“Five minutes rest, then I’ll put you on the rack.”

That 50 km event was the most physically demanding challenge I have ever faced. Immediately afterwards my feelings were along the lines of I’m never doing that again. In fact, I’m not doing the 50, the 40, the 20 or any part of the Sovev next year.

Of course, with the pain and effort slipping from my memory, I am not that sure what I will do. One thing is for sure though: next year, Susan is joining in, no matter what!

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Friday’s ride

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Today, Susan and I did the bike event in Jerusalem. In our case, the 40 km ride round the city and surrounding hills. And that’s part of the event that lingers longest: the hills. There were same great runs down, and some tough hill climbs.

The other parts that linger include the fun of riding with Shosh and Elaine (thanks!) and the views. Early on there was fog or mist in the valley. Later on it was clear and we had the green, green grass of, er, Jerusalem.

We are now safely home, tired, but happy, and getting ready for Shabbat.

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Rush

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I don’t know why, but one of the Israeli experiences I enjoy is getting stopped at a railway level crossing and seeing the train go by. And, lucky me, it happens that there is a level crossing in Herzliya on the road we took back on our last bike ride.

And, even luckier, the barriers came down ahead of us, and a train sped through. Cue a rush for my iPhone. (Too fast and dark for a decent picture, but the snap gives you a reasonable impression of the rush of the train going past.)

That was the highlight. The lowlights were the puncture I had, and the two punctures one of the other riders picked up. Maybe we need to slow down?

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Tales from the trip – mountain biking

Here be cyclists...

Here be cyclists…

On our trip back to Scotland, Susan and I were lucky enough to squeeze in two days of cycling at Glentress.

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On the first outing, we were even luckier and had David Sinclair (of Five Star Fitness) to accompany us on the red run. The weather was dry, though occasionally overcast, with fog (!) and mist on some of the higher areas.

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The temperature was fine for me, though whatever cold Susan felt soon dissipated with the exertion of the climb.

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We had a great day out; we climbed up the hill, and we soared down the hill. Trouble free. At the end of the day’s biking we recharged our energy stores at the restaurant before David drove us home for a wee nap. (I cheated and had my nap in the car. This proves how good a driver David is.)

The three mountaineers!

The three mountaineers!

The second outing was just Susan and me. It had been a while since we were out for such intensive rides in close succession, so we were a little apprehensive. However, once we had shaken off the initial stiffness, we got in to our stride.

The weather this time around was sunnier – glorious blue skies – with a nasty surprise of a bitingly cold wind at the top.

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At the top – on the Spooky Wood run – I took some pictures of a cyclist doing the first couple of jumps. Amazingly, we bumped into him (no, not literally…) at the end of the day and got his email details so I could send him the files.

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The bike hire facilities are excellent, courtesy of Alpine bikes. Susan hired a Yeti (full suspension) for both rides. I also hired a full suspension bike – a Santa Cruz for the first day, and a Yeti for the second. My own Trek is a good bike, but these were noticeably better. However, my own bike is long overdue a service, so a direct comparison may be unfair.

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Glorious exercise in a glorious, green setting. We love our trips to Glentress. One year we may plan a trip that keeps us in the Borders so we can do other rides of the 7 Stanes.

For more pictures, see this earlier post.

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Around Jerusalem

As previously posted, last week I did a 40 km ride around Jerusalem.  The event started at the newly refurbished railway station, partly to advertise its opening as a social, cultural, events and meeting venue. And very nice it is too.

Registration was to start at 6.15 am, but of course I arrived before then. The place was already alive.

Watch this space disappear

Watch this space disappear

But it got busier.

A sea of cyclists

A sea of cyclists

After I had picked up my event number, and joined up with Shosh and her crew, there was a wait until the start time of 7.00 am. Which became 7.15 am. I think the Jerusalem mayor was involved, but it was hard to hear much above the crowd. Besides, he was speaking this funny language…

It took a full ten minutes for us to get from our position in the venue, to the starting line. After that, on to the bike, and off we went on our ride.

The initial stages were on the roads, and the traffic was stopped to let us have a free and less dangerous passage. But after maybe 15 minutes, we were off road and climbing.

Jerusalem is hilly. Around Jerusalem it is hilly. So we went down and up, but mostly up. And after that, we went up some more. Thank goodness for the water stations.

"What do you mean, you have no bananas?"

“What do you mean, you have no bananas?”

It was hot, and I used up my backpack water all too quickly. I would have liked some fruit, but you had to be at the front of the event to stand a chance of getting a banana. The rest did not look too appetizing, so I stuck to water.

No escape...

No escape…

Everything went well until we got back into Jerusalem.

(Here, “well” is a relative term. I was hot, thirsty, tired, sore, and hot. But that was not the worst of it.)

Shosh, who had kindly kept me company for most of the time, was being held back by my pace, so I encouraged her to go ahead. But somewhere after passing the Teddy Kollek stadium in Jerusalem, I looked around and realized there was nobody ahead of me. The pack of riders had gone. Worse, there was nobody behind me. Worse, there were no signs, and no stewards. Yes, I was lost.

I cycled on a bit. No riders. (I was looking for any sign of the green color of the free t-shirt they gave each rider. Most wore theirs for the ride.)

A passing motorist told me to get lost keep going. But I was still lost. What did I do? I put on Waze (the Israeli GPS social network app about to be snapped up by Facebook, allegedly) and let it direct me. I reckon I did at least an extra couple of km with that off route detour. Anyway, eventually, I made it back. At the venue, there was a massage tent with masseurs offering treatment to relieve the pain, but all I wanted to do was get home. My bike bore the signs of the ride and I know it wanted a clean up.

Play dusty for me

Play dusty for me

All in all, a good ride. Pity about the poor stewarding and route marking at the end. I am comforted in knowing I was not the only lost rider.

Thanks to Shosh for the tip and the company. And thanks to Jerusalem for being such a cracking backdrop. I was too busy biking to take too many pictures, so you will have to take my word for it this time. It was lovely. (It was also hot, and uphill.)

I hope there will be another one next year and I will be able to ride it again. Next time, I am aiming to get a banana.

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Return to Glentress


No trip to Glasgow would be complete without a visit to Glentress and some of the best mountain biking in the world. It was pouring. We were wet. We were muddy. We were tired. We were very, very happy. I miss this so much..

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