Monday, January 27, 2014

Fifeing Eejit 7 (Seven) - Strathpuffer 2014; The Report

This report has been published on Trail Scotland

I was originally entered into the 12hr race that was due to take place in the Summer of 2013 as a Solo with a plan of entering as a pair in the Winter with whoever I could find mental enough. Unfortunately there isn’t so many people interested in the 12hr even though it could offer better conditions and it was canceled with the offer of Money back or a transfer (at a discount of £10) to the 24hrs.  So that was that sorted.

Conditions had been changeable in the week leading up to the event, and I was dreading the forecast turning Wet and Cold, thankfully it was neither wet nor cold, but the more classic moist and chilly which led to some icy patches on the Fire road climb and lots of mud out on course.

Dad and Bill from Dundee Mountain Club were on hand to provide support, cleaning the bike’s drive train and suspension each lap being the most important task in these conditions, as well as changing brake pads as needed (I didn’t go through as many as I expected to), they also made sure there was plenty of food available for scoffing.

The race starts off with a “short” run (This is not the easiest thing to do wearing XC Race shoes) from the forest entrance to the start line, this spreads the field out a bit as it’s not far from there to the first bit of single track just past where the motorhome was parked, this first fire road climb is also where a lot of people camp so (at this point) I was flying through a campsite cutting through gaps between riders with cheers, cowbells and air horns from the sidelines, if you can’t imagine what that’s like find some motorbike footage from a Tour De France alpine stage on You Tube, just replace the “Allez Allez Allez” with some choice Scottish Vocabulary...

Somewhere on the first lap I punctured, probably on one of the water bars on the descent, but I honestly don’t know, I only found out when I started climbing from the start line, I probably made the wrong decision here to fix it myself as I took a short break at the motorhome anyway while Dad and Bill checked the bike over and reinflated the tyre to the pressure I wanted (Note to self, 16g CO2 cartridges do not fill 29er tyres) and running it would probably have saved some time.

On the 2nd Lap I managed to do the Slab for the first time ever (so that’s my 14th lap of the puffer circuit, having done a recce one weekend in 2012, 6 Puffer lite 2012 laps and 5 Puffer 2013 laps), this is a narrow short steep rock pavement that is the quickest way through a section, although there are 2 bypass options, one is a high line onto some high board walk and the other is to scramble down and I crossed the “Bridge of Thighs” which is a narrow bowstring bridge with sides you really need to watch for hitting (the name comes from the height of the bowstring) so takes some focus to keep on line and something I find tricky under pressure of a busy track.

As the night wore on the climbs got tougher, the seemingly flat main camping straight at the start turned into the Ventoux, the rocks got more difficult to keep momentum up over, and more of the course became a walk. Doubts creep into the mind, slow down, maybe that’s it etc.  But there’s the final descent, the ever cheerful dibber holders who tell you, “you’re doing great” even at one point “you’ve done loads of laps now, what’s that 5?” (It was actually 4, but they’re dibbing for 200 teams), there’s the Mukyz pit one wee dig to go to the van, then Dad and Bill, food, rest, off I go again, “Haribo Hill” marshal point, handing out Jelly Babies, Jaffa Cakes and Satsumas, with heavy electronic beats blasting out of the horse box, into the darkness, I hear music behind me, it’s not from Haribo Hill (it’s electronic but not heavy enough), it’s not from the start/finish (too far away) and Loch Kinellan Marshalls don’t have music (they have Air Horns), “Galibier et Tourmalet,  En danseuse jusqu'au sommet”, an otherwise silent rider drifts past on a steel framed klunker with Kraftwerk blasting out of speakers on his backpack.

Mental mistakes start to creep in from early on:
The Mukyz Directeur Sportif asks How many laps have I done? I don’t know! (Eight I think), but of course that's a good sign!
Is it 10pm or midnight? (10pm).
What’s round this corner, I’ve forgotten. (It’s a water bar, I’ve missed the avoiding line between the trees)
At one point I found myself in the ditch beside the path going at a fair rate of knots as I failed to turn left after dodging a bit of the drainage line. In the daylight I saw the length of my tyre marks in there...

Some drizzle/light rain falls as forecast, but it makes no difference, sweat and puddle splash having made their mark, wool gear bought during the sales helping keeping the chill off and warmth from body heat in.
The half-way mark arrives and I dive in to the motorhome for the half way change, muddy gear dumped into a box and an extended rest break, Bill chatting away to reduce the risk of dozing off, but having already ridden for 12 hours the metabolism is running fast and with the assistance of caffeine there is little chance of sleep.

Setting off from the warmth of the Motorhome is a small shock, and while in the early laps I could get enough power out fast enough to warm up quickly, each lap the chill lasted longer, eventually in the early hours of the morning I put on a lightweight hardshell outer just to take the edge off.

The sky is getting lighter, must be what? 8am? I get to the motorhome and dump my night time helmet (I was running an old XC lid with a head torch strapped on as I was saving my other lights for bar use) for my XC Race lid, the weight reduction is as welcome as the light, I start the lap with the bar lights on as I go through the wooded section to get to the main fireroad climb, a sharp dig links the 2, more tunes blasting from a van, this time it’s a team that always park here, same goes for the next climb landmark as the Chipping Sodbury Scout group’s camp is passed, one last wee climb before a fast descent gives a break, the van with GT Zaskars (mine is sitting unused at the back of the Motorhome) at the Summit and then fly past the No Fuss team to the foot of the climb to the Haribo Hill marshal point, I’m only riding this climb because I’m speaking to another rider from the Mukyz.

Daylight proper now and I’m looking for any psychological lift I can find, speaking to Stephen was the first, then I make it over the boardwalk onto the rocks for the first time in 4 laps, someone in front screws up the rocks, but I clean it again, bridge of thighs cleared again, can I make the hill? Someone stalls infront, and they dive out the way as I crawl past, I grind to a halt at the hairpin though, habitually checking my gears before restart I discover I hadn’t dropped the front into the granny ring, see still got strength left.

Last lap, it doesn’t matter if I have time for another, I’m telling myself it is, a fairly uneventful lap, I get to the top of the last climb, I stop, the clock says there’s 20 minutes left (I’m not aware of a difference between the GPS clock and the official clock) I wander up onto the rocks to have a look at some of the other trails here, I’m not wasting enough time, oh well (That rest nearly put me 30th as the next person on 18 laps was 24:02). I fly down the descent for the last time, bike making all sorts of noises, body not doing much better, through the quary corner people cheering things like “come on, time for another!”, more cowbell, more air horns, down the steps (someone’s there with a camera), bypass the 2nd set of steps, into the marquee. “Going for another?” erm no...

Race stats:
Position: 29 out of 74 solos
Laps: 18
Total Time: 23:49:58
Fastest Lap: 00:47:18 (1st Lap)

Niall Wallace - Fifeing Eejit
1 00:47:18 00:47:18
2 01:01:26 01:48:44
3 00:50:48 02:39:32
4 00:53:44 03:33:16
5 00:59:59 04:33:15
6 01:03:13 05:36:28
7 01:20:55 06:57:23
8 01:14:50 08:12:13
9 01:18:28 09:30:41
10 01:20:16 10:50:57
11 01:21:15 12:12:12
12 01:45:29 13:57:41
13 01:30:10 15:27:51
14 01:42:30 17:10:21
15 01:44:39 18:55:00
16 01:37:18 20:32:18
17 01:43:19 22:15:37
18 01:34:21 23:49:58