So I surprised myself yesterday and did something I never thought I could do – I cycled from Edinburgh to Glasgow.
And not even the short way either.
I did all 100k or so of it from Fountainbridge, just round the corner from the flat here in Edinburgh, along the banks of the Union Canal as far as Falkirk and then along the Forth and Clyde Canal into the heart of weedge, through Kelvingrove Park and down to my sister-in-law’s front door in Finnieston on the banks of the River Clyde, where I pretty much collapsed.
The thing is, you are going to have to take my word for it, because Shaun and Paul The Trainer were with me, but they weren’t with me the whole way.
The plan for yesterday was only ever for The Two Fat Laddies and Paul the Trainer to get from Edinburgh to Falkirk.
We’d take it nice and easy along the banks of the Union Canal – starting out at the Lochrin Basin and moseying westwards from the Capital out through Ratho, up and round Winchburgh, through Linlithgow and on to Polmont, along the southern top of Falkirk and on to The Falkirk Wheel – the link between East and West Scotland.
In total that was 52km and a good three hours in the saddle, with a couple of rest stops thrown in for good measure.
We’d pop on the train at Falkirk High and be back into Edinburgh in jig time.
And after a little over three hours in the saddle that seemed the sensible thing to do.
Indeed that’s what Shaun and Paul did do.
Both had family commitments which meant they had to be back in town, but my plan on the other hand, had always been to get to Falkirk and then to take the train to Glasgow where I’d hook up with my brood who had already made an arrangement to stay at my wife’s sisters.
So, after a glorious morning in perfect weather conditions, us merry three found ourselves at the Falkirk Wheel having passed through some stunning landscapes along the way.
The canal of course, is part of Scotland’s industrial heritage, a marvel. I had visions of how busy it must have been in a different era, a lifeline for the central belt’s early heavy industry before rail and then road caught up.
Nowadays it has a different clientele, lardy boys like us trying to shift the pounds, charity walkers, courting couples, the odd lad enjoying a quiet. ruminative spliff and a carry-out as he sits with a rod watching a float which ain’t ever going to disappear beneath the surface. I guess there are worse ways to while away a Saturday.
There are also some truly stunning stretches, the Avon Gorge,for example, is glorious.
So it really did not feel like much of a chore to be out and about. Scotland looked and smelled great in the Spring sunshine and we were all in good spirits.
I had been ribbing Shaun about the notion of pressing on through all the way to Glasgow but in reality I had no intention of doing so myself. I was going to be at that train station with them – them heading back East and me on the opposite platform, going on West.
As we sat down, sweating, on the grass beneath the Falkirk Wheel we saw another group of lads on bikes arrive.
They had just come from the opposite direction, so I ambled over to them and asked them if they’d made it from Glasgow. They had indeed and had done it in three hours, the same as it had taken us to come the opposite way.
They were in their 40s and 50s and they didn’t look too beat up by their journey. They even advised there were a few watering holes if I needed to stop for a pint. So there and then I decided to press on. If it started to pish down or i felt knackered I could always try to find a train at Croy or Kirkintilloch.
I said to Paul ‘what’s the worst that can happen eh?’ and he took one look at me and said ‘well…. you could have a heart attack and die alone by the side of the canal without anyone knowing’.
I think he was joking but I’m not sure.
Of course it did piss down (somewhere around Twechar, a placename which, up until yesterday, always made me smile for some reason I can’t explain).
Anyway, I’m not going to give you any Scott of the Antarctic crap. It was fine and it was largely a pleasant, warm day. And it was, after all, a canal towpath, not the mountain stages of theTour De France.
But you are still going to have to trust me that I did do it.
I say trust because all the gadgets and apps and gubbins which we have been using to faithfully record every step of the way on our iPhones are only as good as the phone battery.
By the time we got to Falkirk my phone had only 10% battery left and I knew I would need that battery to call my wife to arrange to meet her when I got to Glesca.
I knew also that the lads would give me a hard time unless I could show them I’d really done it.
As fatigue set in round Kilsyth I had all manner of crazy ideas on asking passers-by if they possibly had iPhones or could take a photo of me and tweet it to Shaun just to prove that I wasn’t letting the train take the strain.
The only piece of proof I have is the receipt below.
If you check the top you can see that it’s for a place called The Stables, which is on the Forth and Clyde Canal.
It was absolutely hoaching and looked like a good place for a family roast dinner, so when this sweaty, mud-splattered guy wearing black lycra leggings pulled up there were more than a few smirks.
I wanted to shout out ‘aye, I may look like shit, but i have just come FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COUNTRY’…but stopped short.
Instead I asked the lad behind the bar if he had an iPhone charger and a soda and lime. He could do the second, but not the first.
I had no cash on me so hence the card receipt.
I pressed on after that and checked out every bloody sign I could see to tell me just how much further I had to go – 10 kilometres, 9, then 5, then 4, then, all of a sudden, I was in Ruchill and groups of young guys were taking advantage of the weather and enjoying their carry outs of Buckie by the water in the sunshine.
I didn’t feel threatened in any way but I was conscious that I looked like a tool with my neon yellow jacket and lycra leggings so I cracked on down into Glasgow.
I confess I did not go right to the end of the canal at Speirs Wharf. Only because that would have actually heading away from my own final destination.
When I realised the road down to my right hand side was Maryhill Road, and that the canal had looped right down and round and was in fact heading back East again I cut down on to Maryhill Road, along Napiershall Street (where, in a different world a long time ago I used to live), across Great Western Road and into Kelvingrove Park, where my wife had said she and the kids might be having a picnic.
They weren’t in the park, my phone was practically dead, so I went to her sister-in-law’s in Finneston and rang the buzzer and hoped. Nobody home.
I could have cried. I sat down and took my backpack off, propped it behind me. It started to rain again. A woman walked past, took one look at me and, in that forthright Glasgow way, said: “Oh My God, look at you, you look exhausted!”
I sat there on the step and considered not actually telling anyone that I had done it simply because I thought nobody would believe me. That would have been silly.
As I sat there I turned on my iPhone and saw it was running on fumes – I had only enough juice to text Shaun to proclaim my achievement, to text my wife to tell her where I was, and to take this photo – I think from the state of me you can tell I’m telling the truth.
I don’t know how long it actually took – six hours or more of steady cycling at a guess.
After a long bath, and a sleep, I’m pretty sure I’d do it again any time after my arse has recovered from the saddle sore, as long as the weather was nice and the wind friendly. And as long as I have my other Fat Laddie pal along with me the whole way next time.