Sunday, November 4, 2012

Outer Fife 6 - Sluggan Bridge and the Burma Road

Route Points: Inverdrurie, Dalfaber, Boat of Garten, Sluggan Bridge, Insharn, Caggan, Lynwilg
Route Type: Epic
Surface: Everything but bedrock.

There are a variety of routes taking in the Aviemore Burma road, some take you up it and then down the singletrack to Balinluig, others take you up it and then round to Carrbridge, what very few do, is take you down it.

All set

I tackled this route with other members of the Dundee Mountain Club, a mixed fitness group for the day with plans on a pootle round Loch An Eilean afterwards, we set off from the Rothiemurchus car park at Inverdrurie as it was well placed for both intended routes, althoguh this gives a shorting blast along the Cycle Route towards Aviemore before picking up the NCN 7 "off road" option route towards Dalfaber, this gives a gentle warm up as you spin through the flat lands of a mid to late 80's housing estate.
Running beside the metals of the Speyside Railway, in summer you may be joined by the puffing (and exhausting) of Steam Engines, but in our late Autumn setting the tracks were silent as volunteers worked in the maintainance sheds, (I say work, the lights were on, so presumably they were doing something, boiling small kettles surely counts as work for volunteer railwaymen as much as the big ones), the route now zips off along the Speysideway, meandering and undulating (sometimes sharply) along side the railway on it's steady gradiented embankment, eventually the track and line swap sides before a junction.

At the junction there are 2 routes to Boat of Garten, we stayed on the main track but turning off could take you on some trails that take you out on the main road in the village, the track turns to tarmac and a cheeky wee sprint to the 30 limit signs where the public road is met, before turning left onto the main road through the village, just out the village there is a shared use path which twists, turns, drops, rises alongside the A95, for what is meant to be a long distance cycle route (NCN 7) suitable for tourers to use instead of the road it's pretty pathetic, but on a full-sus mountain bike (on which I had fork lock out and pro-pedal enabled) it was fun, I even spotted a wee sneaky singletrack option at a raised viewpoint, this leads down to the A95 junction where you cross and continue on a bit of old road alignment to the B road towards Carrbridge.

On this road you have 3 choices:
1) Just under 1Km after the junction there is a left turn onto a track
2) Go up to Carrbridge and take the NCN 7 Off Road option (you can pick up the same route throguh the forest from the 1st A95 junction) to Sluggan Bridge.
3) Follow any NCN 7 route to Carrbridge and then Road to Slochd and then take the NCN 7 route to Sluggan bridge as far as Inscharn.

We took Option 1, the track leads down to the A9, the access to the forest is directly across from the track so wait for a gap and cross.
The track bears left, keep climbing until a road appears on the right, we stayed straight on at this and took the next right just to make it tricky and after a short sharp climb, we joined the road from the first right insight of the junction and it looked a lot easier!

Ford at the bottom of the descent
The track starts climbing, you reach a junction where there is a gate straight ahead and the track bears right, cross the gate and keep climbing, a deer fence possible with day-glo orange plastic fencing on it will appear on the left, this lead to the first reason to disable lockout and pro-pedal as the track plunges rapidly, being first down and unsure of the route I stopped at a junction in a large clearing, the route to take is slightly to the left down an even steeper (but quite short) section to a ford, at this ford it became evident that the right hand line was the best, I was first through and took the left and fell in, everyone else went right and cleaned it!

Keep following the straight ahead route until you come to a crossing of tarred road, this is where the NCN 7 Slochd route joins to take you to Sluggan Bridge, as this is an NCN route you can follow the wee blue markers, although chances are you probably won't see some of them what with this not being the Bath to Bristol cycle path that these things were designed for.

Sluggan Bridge

Sluggan bridge is part of General Wade's Fort George to Dunkeld route, and is believed to have been built by Major Caulfeild to replace Wade's original structure, although the only known facts are that the current bridge is not Wade's and that it must have been built before Telford's work to provide what became the original A9 route.

Sluggan Bridge and Coffee Shop (Ruin)

A short rest at Sluggan and some joking about Coffee Shops on the route we trundled on nearing lunchtime to the house at Inscharn where we made use of the roadside to stop for lunch, I say we, I thought the route was only going to take a couple of hours so had left my Chicken sandwich in the van, so while the others scoffed  M&S Finest sandwiches, swigged from bottles of Tonic Water and finished that off with Millionaire's Shortcake, I snaffled one of my Snickers bars and took a mouthfull of sports drink.

Lunch break at Inscharn

Just after the cottage where the route bears off to Slochd we took the left turn and the next left and headed into the wilds proper.  Cutting along the hillside and ignoring a junction to the right we returned to a small wood where we appear to have turned right at a monument, I didn't see either junction or monument but the GPS trace shows I took the corner at 14kmh so I was either enjoying a short descent or was slogging away following the obvious main line.

We then faced a choice, the main track leads left down towards the river, or take the scruffier less used looking track straight ahead, suggestions to split were dropped infavour of the better looking track, which turned to grass after a rapid descent, and a grass climb to make up for that rapid descent...

Grassy... Ford in the Grass (Bridge to the right of photograph)

The two routes rejoin where you land on a decent track again which lasts as far as a Ford with a bridge to the side, from here it's back to a grassy slog along tracks cut out by landrovers simply being driven along.

This takes you past the cottage at Eil and nearly to Caggan where the track becomes good again, with an odd feature as you climb a large mound the width of the road and then descend off the other side and down to a fairly new bridge.

View from the bridge back where we've come from

The bridge The climb after the bridge (old route to right)

Cross the bridge (or if you refuse to use these new fangled devices, take the old alignment and ford the river) and if you have any sense turn sharp right and take the old alignment from the ford up the hill, if not or you want to test your legs of steel out, go ahead and hit the 22% gradient climb.

The climb eases for a while.

After this short sharp section (or the switchback it has bypassed) the climb eases out and you can settle in for the 5.5Km climb to the col, or at least that's the theory, as we got higher we reached a point where the going got soft, very very soft, with the amount of rain we had had this track was saturated, had frozen and resaturated, this was an aboslute slog, and eventually my granny ring started jamming the chain, I had no choice but to batter on hammering away in the 1:1 ratio, it took many stops to let my heart recover but I eventually made it to the top without pushing.  Other either had stupidly small gearing like 30-36 or used the lowest gear of all to get up to the summit.

Looking back into the glen

All the effort of the climb was rewarded as the snow coated central Cairngorms appeared on the Horizon.
The central Cairngorms

We rested, took photos, rested a bit more and then decided we were getting cold so had better get a move on.

Much daftness at the summit

We also debated whether to drop on the Single track to Ballinluig or to do the Burma Road descent to Lynwilg, I chose Lynwilg because I had been looking forward to it, the others went for the Single track.

A descent from 690m to 230m, in 4.7 Km in just under 8 minutes.
8 Minutes of pushing the bike for all the speed I would let it have, flying, swooping, braking, braking, damn sheep, pedalling again, faster faster, steeper, more sheep, backup to speed again. What's that? A gate, brakes on hard, gate open, through, shut, speed up again, faster faster, another gate, same again, speed up, tar, speed still up, junction, cars, A9, stop.

I would have been faster if I had remembered to unlock forks and shock at the summit rather than 1.4 of the way down, I had to slow down to get a hand off the bars and disengage them, but did I really need to?
It's not a technical descent, but it's fast provided you're keeping it in check for what you can see, Sheep and Walkers and maybe even Mountain Bikers following the guide books, suffering their way up the steepness, but it was just me and Mint Sauce and Co.

It takes a wee while for a big enough gap to get across into the filter lane on the otherside of the A9 to appear, the tech is over, just pedal on down to Aviemore and then turn right at the roundabout... Yeah Yeah Roadie instinct kicks in and I'm pushing this heavy bike for what I've got left, oh how I wished I was on the Zaskar here, or even a CX bike, hm.

and Alex ate the lot!
I get back to the van, I don't have the key so I'll have a wait, I don't I eat another Snickers and then head off for Loch an Elienan, I'm just past an old lady who was rather shocked at the amount of mud both bike and rider were covered in when I get a text message saying the others are back, I don't quite make the loch, but I don't turn back, don't want to freak the old lady out!  So I complete a cool down lap of the roads and return to the van knackered.

After getting changed and stowing the bikes we pop into the coffeshop on the other side of the road, but they were shutting earlier than advertised, but they tell us the estate coffee shop is still open, so we pop in there.  Hot Chocolate, Brownies and Cookies, ahh...


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Inner Fife: The Epic

It's been a while since I last went out looking for trails in N.E. Fife, the maps are currently broken and I haven't bothered to sort out my openspace key which si where the problem is (apparently it doesn't work too well with blogger), so I reckoned it was about time I tried to stick a route together from the lot for the blog.

I've done a few "Epics" in the Highlands, in the Ochils and also this one I'm about to present, each time I've done it I have done something slightly different, there are many options available, sections can be cut, modified, doubled, tripled, daft detours can be put in, what ever you wish.  My aim here is simply to show you a possibility.

As I am based in Wormit I will start the route at Wormit bay, although as will be identified there are many possible start points.

Section 1. Wormit Bay to Balmerino
From the Wormit Bay car park follow the path along the retaining wall westward upstream to the seal at the foot of the hedge lined path, climb up through the hedges before a brief descent in an opening before another short sharp climb to a wicket gate, lift the bike through the gate and follow the path through the fields, down water channel hollows and back up again, eventually a young (in 2012) woodland will appear on your left and the going will get slightly softer, this eventually leads to a path division.

Historically the path clung to the side of a steep drop, however the path has been brought in land recently as part of the coastal path works.  Although the historical path was passable in 2012 I do not expect this to last long as some sections are little more than a couple of tyre widths wide, where the path is not in danger of washing away it is a challenging wee ride.

Following the new top path eventually takes you to a flight of steps back down to rejoin the older path, you could cut out Balmerino by climbing from here to Kirkton and picking up the route eastward.

The path drops you out at a small habitation, keep to the water side of these houses, picking up the cobbled path and then stones to the private road along the foreshore before a short climb to Balmerino Abbey.

Section 2. Balmerino to Birkhill via the Low Woods
Optional Section! Pick up description at Section 8 to skip.
Across from the Abbey there is a large barn and a gate, the gate can be walked/ridden round and cycle to the end of the concrete block, turn round the rear of the barn and then a path apparently into the field will be seen.  Take this path which will lead you to a sharp turning into the foliage, this path drops down to the shore line in the woods, keep following the path, sometimes waymarked with White paint on sticks, sometimes with Red arrows, however I would not trust these too much.

The trick in here is not only to follow the most obvious paths but also to have a GPS device on with mapping that shows where Birkhill House is.
A general description of key points would be:
The closest you will get to the foreshore is in a small clearing where the path cuts down right to the edge of the wood before crossing a small culvert on a makeshift bridge with a steep climb up the side of the hill, this keeps climbing to the House's walled garden.
If you have picked this route up right you should find the climb easing within a few hundred meters and start to cut along the hill, it cuts in to the hill a few times for crossing water courses both with and without bridges, before a rather surprising wide avenue appears in the middle of the woods which then cuts sharply up hill again nearer the house.

This drops you off at the gardens, you follow the path along the side of the garden wall and houses until you hit the road. At the road turn Left.

3. Birkhill to Balinbreich
Another Optional section, Pick up description at Section 7 to skip, by climbing Greenhill Drive and forking left to Thornton and Byres.

This section is all road, from the walled garden turn down towards the house and then take the drive to the left, back up the hill this takes you to a T junction with a quiet road, turn right and savour the view as you descend rapidly to Balhelvie before undulating along towards Newburgh.

To your right you will eventually see Balinbreich castle, and on your left watch out for a left hand hairpin onto private road that climbs steeply.

4. Balinbreich to Glenduckie

Climb this hill and follow the right of way arrows past the houses, it gets a bit soft in sections but will eventually take you to a cross roads with the Fife Coastal Path near Old Higham.

You have 2 route options here, either turn left and follow the coastal path down to Glenduckie, or just plummet down the farm track.

Where you meet the public road turn left, and left again alongside the farm.

5. Glenduckie to Normans Law
Follow the track alongside the farm, it will curve to the left with a gate on the right.
To the left is where you would emerge if you took the left turn at the top of the hill, in both cases the Fife coastal path arrows will point you through the gate as the route to Aytoun Hill, this path runs along the side of a field and like all field edging routes requires care of both ground conditions and not straying into the crops.  At the end of the field edging section it cuts into woods on a small path that appears to cut across from the other road (never investigated if this is a possible short cut for those coming down from the cross roads), and passes some houses on your right, at the end of the short road you want to turn left up hill.

This road takes you up though the Aytoun Hill woodland, it curves as it climbs onto the North face of the hill before depositing you out the woods at a junction where the main track leads back down hill, go through the gate on the right and follow the track uphill, you will eventually find a gate marked as a right of way to Luthrie, but first the summit of the hill. Either dump the bike at the gate or carry the bike up to the summit of Norman's law, some sections of trail may even be rideable.  The summit is the site of an old fort and trig point, with cracking views over Fife and the Tay valley.

6. Norman's Law to Luthrie
This section is a grass based right of way through fields with livestock, it leads down to a track into the village of Luthrie, follow the path with your nose and you can't really go wrong, although there is a mildly confusing section at Carphin.

7. Luthrie back to Balmerino
This section is all on road, climb the east most road out of Luthrie up to Hazelton Walls (you can also go through Brunton and Creich if you want)
Eventually you will see on the left the Birkhill gatehouse at the top of Greenhill drive, descend the drive to the fork right, take this along through thornton, at byres instead of going onto the road you can take the new path roudn the back of the houses to get to Balmerino Abbey

8. Balmerino to Naughton
This section can be bypassed by hitting the road to Section 9

Descend into Balmerino but instead of dropping to the foreshor follow the road in the village over the bridge and take the path signed for Gauldry - Monks Road into the field.
Follow this path through the field, into the woods where a wee bit of singletrack leads you to a road crossing, cross over the road, throguh the field again and into another bit of woods, follow the main track through here to the private road at the houses in Bottom Craig, at the right hand corner there is a path straight on, follow this behind some more houses and this will lead you through to Naughton farm, turn right here out to the road.

 At this point you can return to Wormit by turning Left in Naughton and following the track to Peacehill before taking either the road or the right of way through the fields,  the right of way is only passable if the ground is well drained and the farm have left a good road way through the crops (this is clear as you get close to it) as the path in the field edge is hardly walkable due to lack of use.

9. Naughton to Gauldry

Turn left onto the road and then just past the house there is a big muddy field opening, ignore this but take the next big muddy field opening, a right of way leads directly up hill from here to the Gauldry church hall. There is also a shop in the village, turn right along the main road and it's on the left, retrace steps to repick the route.

10. Gauldry to Kilmany
The aim here is to get through Gauldry onto the Shambleton woods track, this is done by turning down Quality Street, turning left on Balgove Avenue and then looking out for a path to the right, take this past the houses to a junction with the path into the fields, follow this path uphill, eventually an obvious path turns to the left into the woods, take this throguh the woods until it looks like you are at a dead end, a road is just over an old earth dyke, find the route through the dyke onto the road and then descend, rapidly.
This track bottoms out before Kilmany and you have a short climb before another descent to the A92.
Cross the A92 onto the village road (marked as unsuitable for through traffic).

11. Kilmany to Forret and Logie
Climb out of the village by crossing over the bridge and through the old railway bridge gap, climb the road up to the switchback and then start looking for a track on the left, take this track toward EAster Forret and just keep following it, it will deteriorate in quality until it is little more than a mucky footpath up hill, at this point it drops you into the back of Logie.

12. Logie to Craigsanquhar
Turn Right onto the road at Logie and you will come to a sharp left hand bend, on the outside of this bend there is a gate, go through this on the path and turn sharp left, follow this path until a wide farm track intersects, turn up the wide farm track back to the road.

13. Craigsanquhar to Dairsie
Left of where you have rejoined the road there are cottages, between these cottages there is a road, descend this down to Dairsie, at the bottom you can either go up into Dairsie to use the shop or turn left along to Pitormie.

14. Dairsie to Cuplas Hill.
This is a rather flat wide road, it drops you off on the main road just short of Pitormie, if you aren't comfortable with the traffic flow the far side has a narrow excuse of a path.

Turn left onto the main road/path to the junction at Thai Teak where you can partake in some cakes and coffee.

At Thai Teak there turn up the hill and take a right onto a path, this starts as a decent field access before turning into a challenging climb on usually soggy single track, I've gone up here in the past wondering what it's like to descend, the answer is of course Fun!
Keep following this and it will eventually drop you onto an estate road at Airdit House, turn Right on this and look for the next right hand junction, you have a decision to make

15. Cuplas hill Decisions, decisions, decisions or how to get to Leuchars.

Option 1: Follow the track out to the junction on the road at the top of the hill, and pick up the track throguhh the fields to the top of Lucklaw hill, from the top of Lucklaw hill pick up the various tracks that drop you to the Lucklaw hill settlement, from here you can drop down to either the main road or Balmullo.
If you go for the main road you want to find the road over St Michaels golf course and then turn down the road into Leuchars.

Option 2. Descend into Balmullo on the farm road, and cut throguh the village, get down to either the Pub or the Spar (Lucklaw hillers can also do this) and then take the road down to Guard bridge, from there you can get along to Leuchars station and into the village.
I have mapped this option.

16. Leuchars - Tayport
There are 2 main routes into Tentsmuir, the first is to follow the roads and tracks beside the airfield and to dodge along the trails in the sand dunes before landing at the main car park in tentsmuir.
The other is to pick up the Coastal path route, this takes you along board walks through marshes and drops you onto the main access road in Tentsmuir.
There really are many routes through tentsmuir, the most technical being to pick up the single track from the car park, this can be found by finding the small rise between car park and path, and cycling along the top and dropping into the dips, you will soon see worn paths converging until it's a proper looking bit of wild single track cut in the rise, follow this, before landing back on the path.
I honestly can't describe how to find the rest of the single track in tentsmuir beyond telling you to scan the side roads and rises in the trees for worn out tracks.

What ever route you take through tentsmuir it will take you to the Lundin Links bridge at the Food Mech in Tayport.

17. Tayport to Tay Road Bridge
From here you have a couple of route choices, if you are knackered I'd recommend taking the road along the waterfront, through the caravan park, along to the Harbour and then pick up the cyclepath to the tay bridge.
If you still have some energy left you can cut up into the village, pass Scott & Fyfe, the Co-op and Fire station and turn left at the mini-roundabout, join the main road through the village and then take a left at Wilison motors, and climb Craig road (the left left not the straight on left), this road leads up into Scotscraig estate, if the farmyard is working you'll need to take the left route down to the Washer Willy's road and then take the next right back into the estate (you could also use the Washer Willy's road to get straight into the top of Newport) throguh the farm yard take the straight ahead route which drops down again for a bit before curving to the right at a junction (if you did drop to the washer willy's road you rejoin at the junction) before a brief climb back up to a summit where you get a good view of Dundee, you then descend the Serpentine to the main road, cross this road to join the cycle path to Newport.

Follow the cyclepath towards newport, and turn up to the bridge, cycle through the car park, into the tunnel to the bridge walkway access and then turn left throguh ther metal railings on the path, follow this path up to craighead road in Newport

18. Tay Bridge to Wormit
Where the path joins craig head road there is a path directly across the road, join this rather than the road and at the small copse turn right and then left onto the single track, this drops rapidly to another road, pick this road up and out onto Station Brae, turn left and then right but not onto the road but the track behind the last row of houses, this takes you past garages and drops you at a good angle to attempt to climb the railway embankment which is steep and rooty.

Follow the embankment to cupar road, unfrotuantely the nature trail doesn't go through tayfield estate, so pick up cupar road and then Kirk road, on Kirk road lookout for a gap in the wall on the right, go through this gap down the first steps and then look for a bit of single track on the left, follow this and it drops you out by a more challenging route than following the path at Newport West Station.

At Newport West station the path along to Waterstone Crook is very clear but just look for the Green walking signs marked N.T. (Nature Trail) go through the crook car park, do a loop of the old railway bridge and then hit the railway line through to Wormit, cross the road and back up the embankment, and blast along until the path takes you down to Birkhill Avenue, turn left, throguh the railway bridge gap and then look for Scotscraig Crescent on the left, not only is this not a crescent it's also a challengingly steep hill, climb this and get onto Crosshill terrace, turning Right, turn left at the cross roads and look for the path behind the houses at the end of Reserviour road, go along this path to the top of Mount Stewart road and turn into the field, follow the track left from the enterance and up to the top of the field, turn right here and go along the top keep left at each junction you come to until you find a descent looking over towards the sand quarry, descend this hill and join the path down to Wormit Farm, here cross the road and descend either through the decomissioned farm (if clear) or by taking the road slightly to the left from the junction, go under the railway in the "tunnel" and turn directly left, hack through the fields and when you reach a small bridge over the railway turn right and follow the trail into Wormit Den, follow the small water course to where there is a stile over the fence, either cross the stile and turn right to return to Wormit Bay OR climb up the side of the hill and drop into the play park and see if you can get up the other side of the "ditch" (make sure the fence at the bottom hasn't been fixed first) in the paly park turn left down the steps and down the path to the car park.

You've certainly earnt your tea so why not try either "The View" in Wormit or the "Brig O' Tay" in Newport.

This route has got a mix of road, trail, tracks, woods and even some rock if you go up Lucklaw hill.
You could extend out to Newburgh from Glenduckie, you could find some more tracks from Dairsie to extend there, there may even be possiblities for getting into Cupar.

But the important thing with this route is not that I've detailed it, nor that it even exists, but that it shows with a little bit of map work, satellite imagery viewing and going out and exploring you can very easily find a cross country route of epic length to challenge you.

Ride With GPS link

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fifeing Eejit Five - Tour De Ben Nevis

A few posts and many months back I wrote the following Outer fife Route report:

I signed it off with "This route is a true epic, it's rough, it's tough and no matter how fit you are, it will beat you.
So will I enter the No Fuss event, er..."

Well the answer to that last question is, yes, yes I did, and why the --- did I do that?

This event is properly barmy, when it comes to the winners it's not down to fastest time alone like in other MTB marathon events, although doing the 68 competitive kilometers in 3 hours 50 minutes (which includes the slow procession down the high street) clearly helps so too does technical descending down the west highland way to Kinloch Leven, rough fire road climbing back up all that descent and more from the bridge after the mamore lodge to "The Bench"... Ok it's a wee bit further than the bench, a fair bit further, it's actually at the start of the loch, and just to really knacker you out, they time you up the climb from the Meananach bothy that needs mostly carried before plunging down to the Lairig Leachach bothy. Nice eh... And if that isn't enough you're then presented a black graded rocky descent to the North Face car park on trails known as "Blue Crane" and "Nessie".

After fitting the 34 tooth cassette the previous night I was contemplating on the Friday morning just what was wrong with the gears that they were grumbling in the small cogs (heh what, when am I going to use them), the chain, it must be the chain, but it's a newish chain it only went on in April... April... Wait I've done over 1000km on this bike since then.  A last minute lob of the spare chain into the car boot and I set off.

A "quick" replacement of the chain and this proved to be the issue, quick did I say? er well I fitted it without shrinking first time to check, and then wrapped and twisted it after cutting it down to size, but the bike was ready and battering round the campsite seemed to show this to be the case.

A cold night in Glen Nevis saw me awake to a layer of frost on the car, tent and ground but the milk was still fluid so my Weetabix went down as normal, I was up relatively early and drove down to An Aird, wandered to McDonalds for a cup of tea, wandered back, spoke to a local doing the event (if you're reading this sorry, I never thought to check your number to see how you did, how did you do?), and eventually put the bike together and headed for the high street.

The high street slowly filled with people and bikes, the Orange marketing van was there with nice long sprung full suspension bikes like the Orange 5, lots of Orange 5's in fact, then I realized they were actually most of the entrants bikes, the marketing van only had one of each model and they weren't muddy, this was also quite impressive because both people on the stand were entered in the event, although I suspect the woman with the wrist cast on wasn't starting.

Behind me at the start In front of me at the start

I was aware of the start taking place behind a pipe band, and that I would probably be decent on the road climb, so I moved towards the front to get some space, the walking pace start was a nightmare with the saddle set for road climbing though, maybe a tad too high, I had walked up to the foot of the first climb the previous night, so why I did not warm up I do not know, this would also have shown me that wearing 2 base layers was not the right option once under way either.

Along the high street we crawled, most were able to pedal slowly wobbling all over the place, I had to pad along for a fair bit, I just can't go that slow!

Then the sound of trails bikes mixed with the pipes, the pipe band peeled off and the bikes took over the pacing, did I say pacing? ha, off we shot, the increase in pace was frantic, my GPS trace shows a speed spike from 5 to 25kmh between the roundabouts before plunging to a comfortable ~10kmh climbing speed up Lundava road.  It was here that my baselayer mistake became obvious, and being 2 wool layers under a wool jumper was even more obvious than when I wore a baselayer for 10 Under the Ben in >30C heat.
I had to stop and lost a fair bit of places here, I had passed more people on the climb to this point than I was aware of passing me and was, other than the tight thighs due to lack of warm up going comfortably.

I'd never been up this road either so didn't have a clue what to expect topography wise, after a long stiff climb it soon changes to a rollercoaster ride of steep descents and steep climbs until you hit the Military road for the Lairigh Mór, one down side of not being used to riding the Zaskar on the road is I didn't know how it handles on tarmac properly, and I'm not a great descender any way, then add to that nut jobs on Orange 5s descending at seemingly twice your speed risking wiping you out if you take a line without checking, it was a wee bit hairy but I had found myself back in a big group after the stop, I'll need to try it on one of my road bikes though, climbing in 26-34 is easy so why not practice with 34-28?

Hitting the Lairig Mór track after the road was like hitting a wall, I had totally forgotten how rocky it is, in places there were as many pushing fat tyred full sus bikes as there were people battering fat tyred full sus bikes over the rocks, there were also a few pushing fat tyred hard tails, so pushing the Zaskar through this was no shame to me, obviously people were flying past me now, thankfully this road smooths out for a fair bit, but by now I had found my place in the pack, switching places with a man in a cow costume, him passing me on the rough stuff, me flying past him on anything smooth.

Rock, Crunch, Rock, Crunch, feck, chain slipping in the middle - middle gears, that's no fun, either I need to replace the front chain ring as well or the chain is still too loose (time for an extra chain tensioner? The mech should be doing that job.)

"Say Cheese!", eh what? Someone with a camera that I had just caught up with was wanting a picture or video, I obliged.

 Rock, Crunch, Rock, Crunch, oh dear.

The queue for the Kinlochleven descent infront

And behind

Eventually after a bit more crunching and realizing I was just going to have to do the rougher bits (so almost all of it) in either Big-Big or Small-Small, I reached a queue of people waiting for the descent into KL on the West Highland Way, this is normally a hiking trail and is full of non-bike friendly ruts, drainage channels and other bits of "tech", I was rather happy with how much of it I managed to do on the bike, and I didn't puncture, after 12 minutes of being battered around on an 85mm travel hard tail with tyres at 40psi (I meant to drop them with the saddle when the route shifted onto rougher stuff but totally forgot.) I dibbed my timing chip and emerged onto a road full of medium travel suspension bikes having quick tube changes!

A quick tweet saying I wanted to do it again (better wait for next year), retighten the front brake lever which had come loose in the Lairig Mór (odd since the terrain there doesn't require front brake use much) and the saddle back up and I was onto the climb to Mamore Lodge, my GPS recorded a maximum gradient of 32% on the tar section and although I wouldn't necessarily trust that it was certainly a tough tarmac climb to the feed station where there was only the odd cup of water left, the Quad bike carrying the marker flags from the previous section arrived as I got there so I reckon I was pretty near the back by now.  The next section was a bit of respite being nice and moderately uphill before the dibbing station at the bridge before the climb to the lochs, I walked up a fair bit of this back in April and I walked a fair bit again, possibly a fair bit more, I think that despite the slightly shorter gearing I was slower up here than before since I stopped to take a few pictures a few people got past, stunning view as always.

The Mamore Climb, goes up

and up (nice view of Kinlochleven

and up (Nice view of Loch Leven)

And eventually flattens out (but not quite yet, this is still going up!)

For some reason my mind told me the bench was the summit, how wrong I was with that, I really don't remember it being a climb from there to the lochs, but then it's not as steep and a bit more broken up with the odd wee downhill, and I had stopped for a rest last time at that bench, it is a stunning view.
The river crossing

The special stage end was at the start of the loch, decent enough surface, flattish and plenty of speed took me to the last wee climb before Luibeilt and the river Crossing, unfortunately the race route takes you a long way along the river bank either side to get to a fairly good crossing section being muddy river bank meant a bit of a push.  Over the river and repeat the muddy river bank push to the timing station at the foot of the hike-a-bike.

The hike-a-bike section is a tough section that you have no choice but to walk, if you bother to get on the bike you'll only be pushing again, for best speed you need to carry but I'm not strong enough for that, over an hour of pushing (which I'm not really strong enough for either) and I finally summited, someone was lying down on a rock for a rest, couldn't blame him for that!  I remembered the descent from here to Lairig Leachach Bothy as a decent track but rough in places, it felt like it took ages to get to, and memory had made it feel easier than it was, but what a descent it is, at Lairig Leachach the good landrover track was as welcome as the BBQed sausages and a wee rest, I remember struggling a bit on the climbs on this track last time, but I really got the speed in, and I was soon flying down towards Spean Bridge, the statue that freaked me out last time came into view, I slammed the anchors on, what is it?

The Wee Minister

and me, but hold on what are these guys doing?

Oh dear!

It's "The Wee Minister", some others came to a halt as well freaked out by it, and took a picture for me as well as some more humorous shots.

Speed soon returned before flying round the corner to where Frazer had told us that "A bunch of 15 year olds will be manning a table with sweet stuff, It's a risk we know, you'll either find a well stocked table or a bunch of hyper 15 year olds", I didn't find a well stocked table, and these 15 year olds appeared to be on a post sugar rush hang over lying splashed out in the scrub land, oh well. On into the forest, more good track and then...

A Bog.

Nightmare, other event organizers put up wee stickers on the route map saying "Portage, sorry!" at bits like this, No Fuss seem to revel in it!  At one point I was catching up with a group in front, but stopped to tweet about the bog and they disappeared. FireXCs are not the tyres for Mud, I know this, I think everyone knows this, but the biggest problem was when I miss-judged a soft looking section and sank to my knees in it, magic.

Finally the route emerged on to the nice smooth forest roads and climbed, and climbed, and climbed, until, I've been here before, no I haven't, yes I have! The puggy line is hit, I remember going up this for 10 Under, and now I was flying down it, or at least it felt like I was flying, the bridges certainly felt a bit dodgy, through the tunnel under the downhill and then, what? up again!

I got off an walked some of this, I was just knackered now, I for some reason thought it was going to be the descent to the old Torlundy road from the World Champs cross over, no it's not, up more, and more and "Caution Black Graded Run, Bombhole" eh? What? chip dibbed, off you go. EEEEEK so that's what Blue Crane is.

Ok so I've done the Laggan Black, the Glentress Black, the Balblair Black and the Learnie Black, this is was like some of the bits of the Laggan Black I walked with difficulty, catch netting and padding on the exposed sides just to emphasize the risk of breaking your neck.

So I walked with difficulty down a rough staircase, and then down a bombhole (really I should have been able to do it but I was over 60km into a tough day), ah now it gets easy, dropping down a bit I did know (but don't know the name of) and then back onto another Black Graded trail called Nessie.

While looking for a walking route through the bombhole another entrant arrived "They're having a laugh" he said or something to that effect.

Eventually I was spat out at the North Face Car park where I stopped to put the saddle back up and was dropped by the other guy, followed by a not quite flat out cycle along the A82 cycle path to the competitive finish line, had I know where the end was I could have got more speed out of myself, but still I hit that line on 7hrs 55mins and a few seconds, I had hoped I could be around the 6 hours mark, but it was obvious it wasn't happening from a few daft mistakes and the struggle in the Lairig Mór.
(A few daft mistakes includes not actually doing long rides in the run up to this as well as the base layer mistakes, warm up and being on a Zaskar with 85mm forks)

I Dibbed out and on the road into Fort Bill still going as fast as I felt like getting back to the town centre on 8hrs 19 according to my GPS trace, but that's with a fair bit of time waiting at the start.

Bike at the finish while I eat my pig roll

No pictures of the pig roll, It's too busy being eaten

So last time I did this route what did I say?

"This route is a true epic, it's rough, it's tough and no matter how fit you are, it will beat you.
So will I enter the No Fuss event, er..."

Well, lets adjust that slightly

"This route is a true epic, it's rough, it's tough and no matter how fit you think you are, it will beat you.
So will I enter this No Fuss event again?"

Of course I will, but I'll be using the Meta 5.5 I've bought since last time out, wide tyres and suspension, I've just got to get practicing riding it on the road.

Or maybe I will buy an Orange 5, it seems to be the bike to use, the Male and Female Master Category winners even got the frame of one for their efforts.


2nd, 3rd and an interloper (Pete Scullion of Orange taking the place of the winners)

What? So I didn't use all 85mm travel?

And so the inevitable Bothy pictures:

Lairig Leacach Bothy in 2004

Lairig Leacach Bothy April 2012

Lairig Leachach Bothy September 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fifeing Eejit 4 - Strathpuffer Lite

This is the 12 hour version of the Strathpuffer24 race held in Toralchity Forest every winter.  The idea behind the 12 hour race seems to be that you get to do the trails without the ice and snow, in warmth and with a fair bit more daylight.
If that is the theory then due to the Gulf Stream not bothering to take its annual summer holiday to the space in the Atlantic between Ness and Reykjavik it failed miserably.


I can't remember exactly how I discovered there was a 12 hour version of the 'puffer, nor can I remember how I came to convince one other Dundee Mountain Club sort of member (I've still to hand over two dozen and a half pounds sterling to the membership secretary) to take part in the event.

However I seem to remember it involving me going to the trails for a recce while on holiday in Inverness and coming home thinking rather a lot of the trail, that day it was warm and dry and there hadn't been any rain for a month.

An e-mail was received from the organizers saying they needed more entries, not just this year but onwards for the event to go on, so it looked like I may have picked the last year for it, I hope not.


So we set off early on the Saturday morning from Dundee, the weather was rather manky but as we headed north and turned off for Laggan it was looking rather dry, yes I did just say "turned off for Laggan", not only did we plan for a prologue at Laggan Wolftrax put also an epilogue at Golspie Wildcat..

With legs warmed up and bikes checked out for any issues on the Laggan red the rains arrived as we left, the weather seemed to be following us, but as we crossed Slochd the weather was back to being nice and dry hopefully it would hold.
Alex approaching the dibbing station to start his 2nd lap
This of course meant that when Alex started the race the day was already 12 hours old, while others more wisely had arrived on site when it opened at 2pm and promptly gone to sleep.  As Alex was driving he took on stints 1 and 3, with me doing 2 and 4, unfortunately the catering van had a wedding during the day so the van opened around half 7, this was fine for me but Alex hadn't had a chance to eat before the start and this seemed to show in his times, with the first 2 laps around the 50 minute mark, I had actually expected him to be in, in time for a 4th lap but it wasn't to be with his rather hungry 3rd lap at 1:05

The bikes prep'ed for action
Team DMC Coal and Custard
The race leader starts his 2nd lap
With a plate of pasta and a Caffeine gel in me I set off at a disturbing rate of knots up the hill, the recce was proving useful as I knew roughly how much further I had to go so could tell the pace I was doing was fine, and words of encouragement emerged from campervans parked in the darkness helped with the climb.

I knew the top section was going to be tough, 2 marshals with a livestock van, 4x4 and blazing oil drum sat at the start of it, there's a choice of 2 narrow wooden bridges over a ditch that drops you onto a loose rocky climb and the rockiness continues, and continues, I'm not very good at rocks, and I'm on a hardtail with 85mm travel so as you can imagine I was being thrown around a fair bit.  This then eases off as you approach the gate and Bob the Skeleton.

After Bob the rough rocks are replaced with bedrock slides and rough single track as you descent to be bridge, I had heard that someone had once missed the bridge while in the lead of the 24 hour race once, it's certainly one you don't want to miss, it's also uncomfortably narrow although with the barrier at ankle height rather than bar height as long as you can keep straight lines in narrow stuff it should be fine.. I of course have a severe dislike of ruts and this proved to be the same.

There was then a rough climb, switchbacking up the hillside before a rough run to a sharp descent on narrow track and a small climb to the seat, the seat where I had stopped for a rest and viewed across the coutnry side during the recce, it's dark I can only batter on.

The seat indicates a real change in track and pace, the route plunges down the hillside from here on narrow tracks, tracks that seemed to get narrower every lap rather than wider, with no room for anyone to get past if they caught you, no one caught me here, not because I was going fast but because with the low number of entries the event attracts the pressure of passers is much rarer than on other events, and then boom you're spat out onto fire road faster faster, tape across the road ahead, a small but brutal single track bump, a short cut through the trees, out onto fire road again, the sound of a horn, a van, another oil drum ablaze, shouts of encouragement and suddenly up, sharp and loose, caught unaware, I knew this was here, but I'm in top! I manage to drop into the middle rings, a standing club, I know it's not too long, I've passed someone, they repass spinning in their granny ring as I grind it out like Jens Voight, it would be my turn to have the laugh on that climb next lap as someone else was caught out in similar manner.  The summit of the climb reached, here the fun really begins, a well surfaced track starts to lead us down, onto a well surfaced path, faster down, bounding over culverts, faster faster, another chance to get caught out in the wrong gear as the route shoots up and up again, the summit is reached, another fast descent another wee climb, I may even be imagining but then, then, the last summit is reached 140m to descent to the line, the route really plunges now, the good path surface cut up a bit by the bikes, sharp tricky loose rutted corners, culverts to cross, faster faster, steeper steeper, another sharp bend, braking from 30/35 kmh maybe more for others across the fire road path again, path narrows, foliage climbs, a sharp corner, Culvert! the path widens again, approaching a camper van more shouts of encouragement, sharp turn WOW, this was a bit I hadn't found during the Recce, a thin ribon of singletrack, still solid in dryness at this point but tough due to it's mix of roots and logs leads down between fire roads, a fast chute onto the fire road, down, round the corner and then a blast along to the line to start the next lap.

Yes the next lap, the one that crossed midnight, 55 minutes or as SI printed it 24:55:29, the one where I first encounter a walker, pushing up the fire road, "Legs gone?" I query as I pass, "Aye", "Solo?" I probe, "Aye", "Oh Dear" I reply.  It's also the one when the rain started, it's not heavy though, I carry on don't bother with the water proof, but it gets heavier, the going is still good but tiring, I'm not eating during the laps, I'm just drinking, I have juice for 3 anyway.  The 3rd lap, rain getting even heavier, too wet now to put on the jacket, I finish it on 01:06:18, slower than Alex's 3rd lap, and I had eaten, but I was tired, it's 25 to 2, I'm early, our agreement should have seen me do another lap, but I got off to find him after dibbing in considering the delay between me stopping and him setting off 1:13 was a decent time for that lap, the next was 1:10 and the next was 1:12, consistent!

By this point the rain was heavy, I was soaked, but also hungry, no point getting changed into gear for the last 3 hours yet, I stand shivering in the marque as I wait for my Venison burger, maybe I should have dried off first and put a warmer layer or two on?


Cut wooden poles burn in the early morning light, I didn't really sleep, just lay and cramped for a couple of hours after drying off, I'm waiting for Alex to hand over for the last 3, I'm cold, I'm set up for cycling not standing around, maybe I should have had a warmer jacket on and handed that over as well as swapping the van keys for the dibber?

It's 5 am, It's light, I'll see where I'm going now, the Caffeine gel is consumed early, still waiting, 5:25 here he is, 9 laps done, on target for 12, Dibber and Keys are swapped, I shoot off, another caffeine induced climb.

The same van, the same encouragement, "I've only just started!" I joke.  I'm climbing well and I know it, the daylight reveals some interesting features, For as long as I've been riding in the dark I've know the reduced visibility makes some things easer, like that steep grass slide in the field above Wormit, or various rock sections at Strathpuffer...  With the tiredness comes walking of some of the climbs, only technical climbs on the 1st and 2nd laps but on the 3rd even some of the fire road, I even put by saddle up to road height to try and keep going on that last climb. I probably should have eaten a bit more than that sole venison burger and protein shake during my rest, on the 2nd lap, at the summit the bag of Jelly Babies is devoured, questions of ability to do the 6th/12th lap fill my mind, I'm physically tired, but I managed 10 hours at 10 Under why am I struggling now? Maybe it's just mentally tired, Of course the rain is still on, It's 6am and I've been awake for 22 hours, on through the day light, the smooth descents faster, the tricky bits sometimes trickier in the light, that narrow bit feeling even narrower.

That 4th/10th lap took 1:02 the 2nd took 1:13 it didn't feel like I had been that slow, but how long has I stopped to eat those jelly babies? I really thought I was spent when I dibbed in at the end of the 5th/11th lap, but I had time, I had a whole hour and a half to get round, it was 7:30am, I've now been awake for 23.5 hours, I wish I had had a caffeine gel on me then it would have helped, I still had some juice left though, enough for the lap, that juice was 2:1 + Caffeine so.

"May as well try" I mumble to no one really as the I pause after dibbing in, I set off up the hill knowing it's the last time not as fast feeling as before, the rain has eased off too, but it's still cold, and it's very wet, the fire road defeats me, daft I know the saddle was up, the going was good but my head was gone for it, i continue walking further after the bridges also, no Jelly Babies in the bag this time, I felt slow, so slow, but as I hit that final descent, I'm fast, I know I'm fast, the speedo shows I'm going over 32kmh into the corner at the fire road, the clock on the speedo shows I'm going to make it with 15 minutes to spare, that final narrow single track is no longer solid, it's a mud surf, I hit the fire road for the last time, I can use up what energy I have left.  I cross the line and dib in.  The marshal has to remind me to hand over the Dibber, do I want a print out? Yes of course I do! 1:11:34 for that last lap. What? That's faster then the 2nd last! Did I really stop that long for Jelly Babies?

Alex demonstrates his accommodation for the rest periods
I pass the remains of the burning logs and head to my tent, Alex is sorting stuff out in the van, I've not changed or dried off yet, we discover there is a hose, so I take the bike there to clean it as best I can, and then turn the hose on myself.  Another competitior who did the race solo is there, she says she did 11 laps and was happy with that, she also says she took 5 minute rests between laps.  That means she was going at the same pace as us, but all night. The race winner did 15 though.

I can now dry off, get changed, and lie down, more cramping, I get up tank some electolytes and try again, that's better.  Alex tells me to batter on the van when I'm ready to set off.
I don't sleep, I can't sleep even with something over my eyes for a black out.

I attempt a cramp unfriendly position in Alex's accomodation

I give up, and get up, I batter on the van doors, are we still going to Golspie?

We didn't.

I get home at 2pm, I go to bed at 3, I wake up at 10, wander around for a bit and go back to bed, I wake up at 11am, just as well I booked that day off work.

I hope this event can keep going, I like that it gives a chance to try an overnight event without it being a full 24 hours and not in winter, but that it appears puts others off.

Stint Traces:
1st Stint:
2nd Stint:

Our Times

Monday, May 28, 2012

Fifeing Eejit 3 - Ten Under the Ben

This is a popular MTB event run at Nevis Range on the side of Aonach Mohr between Fort William and Spean Bridge.  Entry options are Solo, Pairs, Trios (Where is loud mouth Suzy when you need her?) and Quads (Appropriate for cycling too).

I had heard of people doing this and other MTB Events like Strathpuffer and Relentless, but I'd never thought to enter. Not long after signing up for the Selkirk double header I recieved a PM on Facebook from another friend saying "I've just signed a team up for 10 Under the Ben, but I expect one of the guys to wuss out, want to be our reserve".  So not long after that there was me showing on the Solo entries list.


That seemed so long ago as with legs in a still not totally happy with them state I set off late morning for Nevis Range, the temperature was "roasting" on the East Coast and as I headed into the central highlands it increased to "biling", but Fort William and Aonach Mohr are West Coast, surely it would cool down once I'm at Loch Laggan.  It only got worse as I checked into the camping pod I had booked at Bunroy, the mercury had now passed the "not funny anymore" reading .

With plenty of time to spend before registation opened I dug out the bike and set off to find the trails, which I did reasonably sucessfully with only a couple of misreadings of the road.

This showed the route to be reasonably tough due to 500m of climbing and a few bits of single track that would be pushing me a bit, and a small bit that was basically just driven through a bit of moorland and was very rough towards the end. Oh yeah and did I mention that 500m of climbing? well the last 1/3rd of the lap involved a very loose and very long climb before plunging back to the car park.

Back at the car park I waited, sent a text message, waited, went for a wander, waited some more and then got a text message telling me the temperature in Ballater was rather warm.  So I registered, got given a different board number from chip number (confusing eh?) and then I finally heard the right Diesel Ranger Rover engine approaching, followed by me running after Al as they headed for the far side car park.

Top of the Nevis Range Down Hill course
The entry included a "Pasta Party" of dissapointing proportions, yes it involved a free trip up the Gondola (and back down unless you wanted to walk either the Black DH or Red XC routes) but it was a rather small portion compared to the help yourself approach of Selkirk, oh well.

Still snow around despite high temperatures

Temperatures were still in the "biling" territory overnight and "race" day dawned bright, dry and exothermic, of course it started off reasonably cool at half 8 so I threw on a hot weather base layer and road jersey for the start. Although you must understand, reasonably cool is relative only to temperatures of the day and not the Scottish average.  Despite that somehow on the hillsides remained patches of snow, it must have still been well above Zero up there.

The Le Mans style start was replaced with a rolling start behind the marshalls on trail bikes, I had stayed right back because really there is no rush, there's 10 hours to get the laps in after all.
Although in saying that I was soon making my way through gaps in the pack, this first lap missed out a couple of sections so made it slighty shorter but at one poiunt everyone went straight on over a bit of tape when the rest of the day loop went sharply up a bit of single track, not realising this I took the tough single track and discovered I had jumped fair few more places, oh well...

There was also a short cut avoiding a bit of more teccy single track that wouldn't have stood up to the number of people and this did come as a surprise as it involved a rapid descent on a gravel path, which is when I remembered I had intended changing my rear pads.

As I clung on down this descent and being surprised at how few people were passing me on it I started to hear the sound of a DJ, back at the car park aleady? No can't be it's further than that, as I got closer I heard it again before discovering DJ Skimbo and the Dancing woman were set up at a junction near the old road up from Torlundy!  This proved to be brilliant in later laps as you plunged through the forest you would get a quick burst of sound in the distance at the end of a board walk section before being muffled by the trees, for the next couple of KM before the sound arrived again before quickly, moderately or slowly (depends how knackered you are) being muffled again by the trees.

The old road climb didn't last long before being directed into the woods, along a rooty path and then a grass track banking, I managed to hang on, on this a couple of times but either due to others approaching fast or just plain knackeredness I walked it more than I rode it, also the bombhole back onto a path I discovered on my Recce was in danger of throwing me over the bars if I didn't suddenly find some skill.

Another short blast upwards on the path then a plunging and rising blast through trees before the first river crossing, unfortuantely it's not a proper ford so there was carpet down and I wasn't comfortable riding it, onto the grass the other side I eventually realised it could be walked just as quickly as I could cycle it before the next river crossing, this had a grate down but a very steep bank in so I walked this also, in the temperatures of the day the wet feet were very welcome!

After this there was a narow tricky section before crossing the main straight and heading uphill on a loose trail before a small plunge and another path climb which turned into a fire road climb, all the way up to the "puggy line" and more climbing before a wee respite down to a fire road and... yes you guessed it more climbing.  This however was the last climb, a marshals post indicated a change onto a bit of single track that became battered into the landscape throughout the day, it was bumpy, wood strewen and absolutely brilliant as the day went on and I got more comfortable with it.

This then put us on the fire roads again for a wee bump and then a rapid plunge down to the Nevis Range car park, under the downhill track and into the transition area.

An absolutely brilliant route I thought, tough climbing (and a fair bit of walking as the legs slowly ran out of energy).
Excellent event over all too, although some were going for the win, others to push themselves and see what they could do and many were just out to enjoy themselves.
No only DJ Skimbo but the marshals cheering you on, other riders almost falling of their bikes when you say how many laps you have done (assuming it's more than them of course), not being the only one wearing a Retro road jersey (I spotted Motorola, LA View Clair and a few others as well as my Team Z)

The final plunge was brilliant, I had aimed for 5 laps but I had time for a 6th, the temperatures seemed to be showing no sign of abaiting, and I had disposed of my base layer 2/3rds of the way into the first lap and had been wishing I had worn a full length Zip from somepoint in what was possibly the 3rd lap. That 6th lap was the worst, it was hot, I was hot, I was caked in the dust that stuck to suncream, I was short of energy, I was low on hydration, but I had been passing others standing at the side of the trails, heads on the bars in pain with cramp (So glad I had put the electrolyte tabs I had got in some CRC High5 packs I had got the previous day, as I had thought I would only need carbs (oh and that I can carry 2 bottles on the Zaskar))  as I went through the tunnel I wished the kids with the super soakers hadn't only been there for the first 2 laps offering a quick blast of cold water to everyone, I dismounted before the mats as required by the timing guy (oddly same guy and main chip system as Muckmedden but different approach) and walked over, absolutely shattered.

Some guy was standing there shaking my hand, asking questions, like Solo? How Many Laps? Here's your Whisky...  I was too knackered to realise it was the organiser who has done the race breifing in the morning!

So... Anyone for Relentless 24 in a Quad?

MTB Traces:
To lunch:
After lunch:

Laps: 6

Position: Midfieldish

Official Time: 10hrs 9mins 17seconds
Computer Stats:
7hrs 54mins 45seconds of front wheel rotational motion.
(You can work out how long I stopped moving for yourself!)
12.7kmh Average
46kmh top speed

That the first 2 in the Solos did 11 laps amazes me, the winning team of 4 managed 12 laps, and they only had to do 3 laps each.

As for my friend's team, well the quads field is quite small, and they were an interesting mix of fitness levels and ability to cope with the conditions, but they entered for the fun of taking part, and most importantly of all, cooked my lunch for me, so they had better do it next year :-)

The Meta at the top of the Laggan Lower Red
High Jinx at Laggan
Stopped off at Laggan Wolftrax for a "couple of Reds", me and Al were kidding ourselves with that, so he did a couple of "Blues" with the board walk and I did a couple of "Blues" too (without the boardwalk), I then headed up to try the Commencal Meta I bought a while back on the Red trail, but was too knackered to do anything other than see how it did at low speeds.
It was once again Exothermic, and I headed home mid-afternoon, it's just starting to cool down now. Thank Feck.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fifeing Eejit 2.5 - Selkirk - MTB

After the road route there was no hope of me doing the 85km route, although given the ground conditions and cut off time there was probably no chance of me making the cut off anyway.

The mass start was a convoy based run out to the the first off road climb, which ramped us steeplyup Fastheugh Hill from Bowhill, this was on a gravel track until half way down the descent where it turned into a lumpy grass track, I was clinging onto the brakes (thankfully better at temperature than those on my road bike) down a grass bank with others flying all over the place around me, rather amusing seeing someone fly past you before decking it spectacularly.

The route then returned to nice solid tracks before meeting the road and then turning off towards the Broadmeadows Youth Hostel and a feed stop.  After the hostel the track turned to path, which turned to slippy steep path and a walk (for me and others around me) before turning to a bog, although the bog was crossed by some boardwalk with step downs I wasn't for riding them, there was little riding from this point on until the top of the climb which was all on soft grass, this however opened out to a narrow track in the heather, very soft but was rideable before hitting one of the main paths up the Three Brethen, this would probably have been mostly rideable if my legs hadn't been shot, oh yes they were hurting, I was even struggling with them on the first road section (maybe I should have warmed them up a bit... or maybe not.
Approaching the Three Brethen summitA bit of a crowd at the summit

I took a big rest at the summit before setting off on the descent, this was a rough narrow descent, maybe a bit much for a knackered person on a hardtail, and then it plunged onto a tricky soft rooty rutted descent, just the sort of terrain I hate!  I tried to keep my speed up but it wasn't happening, I just can't get it right in the ruts and I was bouncing from side to side and couldn't keep my vision forwards.

Thankfully this relented and spat me out onto a forest track where I could get some speed up again with amazing views into the valley before plunging back into a twisty muddy rooty forest again.

I can remember loads of little tricky bits and the order they happened in but not in the grand scale unfortuantely, so all I really know is there was a good mix of single track with tech and fast fire/estate roads!

Eventually I hit the 2nd Feed stop, there was cake, much needed cake and it was good, but I couldn't take a 2nd bit, there wasn't time!

The route turned onto the road and then onto a private road climbing up towards the split, when I got there the marshall was too busy directing someone with a red stripe on his number board to notice I had turned off for the 45km so came running after me to mark my board with a blue dot.

Shortly after this it went back to being a grassy climb up, I looked around me and saw everyone above and below pushing! 
Everyone pushing!
Thankfully it returned to a gravel track after not too long and I got pedalling again, although it switched back to bog for a bit too before the final push to the Three Brethen again on a gravel track.

The 3 cairns at the summit were in sight for a long time before finally seeing it dead ahead though.

At last the summit was reached and yet again people were taking it easy, number boards showing the different route optionsa (except for 28km I guess they had all finished).
Once again though it was a tough bumpy descent, switching from gravel based tracks to soft grassy muddy sections to a wee tricky bit in the woods and even a ford with a photographer lying in wait, unfortunately I took the wrong line on the way in and was "too knackered" to drop into the right line, so I didn't hit it as fast as I could have.

However the metalled road arrived and then the public road, and then the rugby ground and the finish.

Number boards, MTB MArathon with the blue dot of Shame...

GPS Track:
Computer Stats:
4hrs 41min 9sec
9.9kmh average
45kmh max
Total time just short of 6 hours

Official Time: 5:51:17

Hitting the ford on the final descent, Photo by Right Place Right Time