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

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fifeing Eejit 2 - Selkirk - Road

I heard about these events through a friend I used to cycle with until he got serious about doing a decent speed and couldn't go slow for me any more.  The event comprised of a 92/46 mile Road course on the Saturday and a 28/46/70/85km Marathon route on the Sunday.

Both looked interesting so I signed up for both without thinking about how difficult it would be.


The Road events are tagged onto a popular MTB series so are not as well known as the MTB routes although I don't know why as this was a cracking route with a set of decent climbs over the 92 miles.

I of course shot off like a "rocket"... Partly by not thinking of the distance, partly by taking everyone elses speed as an indicator of how fast to go and basically just being daft and inexperienced.
This was despite Andy holding back with me and his Dad and commenting on my speed...

The route climbed sharply out of the Selkirk Rugby Ground towards the village and then up onto the hillside above, before plummeting on a twisty descent downtowards the A7 at Woll.

Me and Andy high on the moors above Selkirk, wonder if Richard Hannay is hiding from the 39 Steps somewhere up here?
Photo by Right Place Right Time

There was little level ground before climbing again and dropping to the first feed station of the day and the route split point.  I was still feeling good so set off on the 92mile route as intended.

This again saw little flat ground before starting to climb again towards Eskdalemuir, unfortuantely this was a fairly light climb and I didn't notice and averaged 24kmh up it before being treated to an excellent fast descent down to the Bhudist Temple. Part of this extra speed came from me shooting off as Andy stayed back with his Dad after a small accident, I didn't feel like going as slow and I thought they would catch up after a wee bit!

The road from Eskdalemuir village to Boreland would be a cracking road if it wasn't for the road surface, I'm out on a steel bike with 28c tyres and was battered around, anyone out on 20mm Tubs...

I stopped at the feed station in Boreland and waited for Andy to catch up, I was jsut about contemplating going on as they arrived, I scoffed a bag of Jelly Babies I had been carrying, this should have been a warning, I still felt good though.

Andy shot off to find a tree and I followed with Andy's Dad not far behind, the road was climbing comfortably again until a horrible short sharp brutal section with a 23% gradiant just past Moffat, for the first time in ages I stopped on a hill on the road.  Andy's Dad wasn't far behind and he passed me as I stopped, this was the last I would see of him for the day.

From now on I was struggling, the descent was followed by a long climb with 17% sections, I was helped along by a couple of guys wearing "Glentress Riders" gear for most of the way after this, they even waited at the finish line for me with Andy.

A short respite to the St Mary's Loch and a quick stop at the cafe... I should have bought some cake and liquid but I only stopped to use the public facilities next door (what was that about not thinking?).

A short undulting section with a brutal head wind followed (all winds are "brutal" on the road, except for perfect tailwinds of course) to the last feed station, I snaffled what I could while making sure there was something left for anyone still out there (I wasn't quite dead last on the road!) but it was too late for taking on more energy.

That final climb, I'm not enjoying it as much as I may be trying to make it look.
Photo by Right Place Right Time
The road then hikes up onto the hills between Yarrow Feus and Ettrick bridge, this is a nasty sting in the legs for the spent forces, a tough single track climb which the photographer had started to descend to get the stragglers by the time I was passing him not too far from the summit, followed by a tough descent, not many chances to get speed up as visibility was limited and I discovered my disc brakes making interesting noises when called on to brake that much!

The good news now was I was over the last hill, downhill all the way into Selkirk where the MTB Past Party was about to get into swing, I still had room for a cheeseburger later on!

GPS Tracking:
Computer Stats:
6hrs 58 min 8 sec
21kmh average
63.6kmh top speed

Official: 7:42:51
See: for other details