Coed Brenin Enduro 2014

Coed Brenin Enduro 2014

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Tour de Ben Nevis

It is done......

I've had the big 70 km loop around Ben Nevis, the Mamores and Grey Corries in my mental 'to do list' for many years but never quite got there. This year I managed to persuade Steve to enter the mt bike race that completes this famous route. My reasoning being that if I entered the race I would be committed and actually get it done. I couldn't believe I got Steve on board because although he loves to enter hard mt bike races I honestly don't think he knew quite how technical this event would be (he's used to more well organised European affairs!). 

view from the campsite
I have to add in a caveat at this point....  ordinarily I don't race and don't really agree with the concept! This may seem uncalled for but I really don't get it. I love challenging myself but fail to see any purpose or benefit in racing other people - fools errand me thinks.

Early morning prep (donuts)
We duly checked in on Friday and got our dipper/electronic timing chip. We packed, I threw in the camera and a small tripod determined to enjoy the day, not be competitive and take some pictures, Then the serious prep commenced which involved many donuts from Morrisons, 2 pints, 1 whisky and a bar meal (perfect carbo/protein mix).

Saturday dawned fair and before we knew it we were starting the race at 10am, led up the High Street by a pipe band. 

pre-race nerves!
Its hard to decide what to say about the route/race, but I guess the highlights were as follows:

Early on (West Highland Way). It is actually uphill

looking back - still on WHW
The West Highland Way was very scenic and a great start, slightly marred by everyone rushing to overtake! This was followed by an insane timed descent down into Kinlochleven (roughly 20km done at this point). It was super technical, all of the big bike brigade were letting air out of their tyres, altering their suspension for max travel, but what made me laugh was the fact that as I went down it on my XC bike at least 10 riders littered this short section with pinch flats all the way down. Don't think I've ridden anything as technical and I had to get off to carry over the odd off camber really wide and deep drainage channel (it was nuts!). I felt quite relieved to get down this in one piece (me and bike) as I saw 2-3 people with bloodied noses, a few gashed knees, one guy who had to have his eye socket stitched up, what looked like a broken wrist/arm and 4-6 trashed bikes at the bottom (broken rear mechs mainly, although one guy tore off his front brake calliper). I wouldn't have ridden this descent with my feet clipped in for £100 (well done Steve). 

WHW - beautiful section before Kinloch

I guess this is why I lost lots of places - I kept stopping to look around!
Uphill (steeply) after this to the first feed station, and then further uphill on the second timed stage up to Loch Eilde Mor. Beautiful scenery on this wild section but physically I hit a real low point (it was roughly at the 30-35km point my normal riding distance) and found myself struggling, low on energy and at one point swearing at my bike for being "so bloody shaky" (it was a rough track), so I stopped, relaxed, eat and took a few pictures.  

After the timed hill climb looking back to Kinloch...

levelling off (at last)

This is where I hit my first midsection low point (nice place for it though!)
As I was so slow the field had thinned by now and I dropped down to the most remote section and river crossing (Abhainn Rath) on my own. The river was only 12" deep or so after this great dry spell, but I did think how it would be a different story in wetter conditions.

Stunning scenery approaching the infamous river crossing

Low water levels but wet feet for the next 3 hours!
After this was the next individually timed section which involved 30-40 mins pushing/carrying your bike to the routes high point, the Lairig Leacach (approx 600m). I kind of made a mistake around this area. I was low on water, it was fairly hot and I was annoyed the marshals had said there was another feed station here (there wasn't). So I filled up from a burn, but then looking into my water container saw lots of critters swimming around! I then thought I shouldn't drink it and could get to the next feed station (1 hr) without liquid - I couldn't. So I got a little too dehydrated and felt crap before finally drinking the water!!!! 

Looking back high up on the carry section
From the high point the views were amazing (the North Face of Ben Nevis and the back of the Grey Corries) and I took 5mins out before the cool and long descent to the Lairig Leacach Bothy and feed station (BBQ). Seemed rude not to have a few hot dogs here. It briefly got cold and rained at this point and I did think I wouldn't want to do this route/race in more typical wild Scottish weather (it would be a real battle). 

top of the high point at last!
After a rest its downhill to the BBQ - yay!
Refreshed I thought it wasn't far to go (maybe 25km) and dropped down the very long and bumpy track into Leanachan Forest (Nevis Range). I underestimated how big this forest is and hit another mental low on the seemingly endless forest tracks, but all of a sudden rode under the Nevis Range gondola (nearly home). A mean trick of the organisers is to then stick in a mother hill climb before the last timed section which was down a section of the World Cup mt bike course. Again this descent was nuts and a shock being at the very end. Steve later told me that he had another over the handlebars moment, and again I wouldn't have ridden this with feet clipped in. 

Bottom of the World Cup Downhill section - phew 
All of a sudden it was finished and I actually felt elated as I cycled back to Fort William to find Steve. At the finish I caught up with Steve shared stories, got our times, collapsed on the street by the Red Bull DJ on a bean bag, got a leg massage (nice - didn't have stiff legs the day after) and learnt that I'd completed the whole 72km in 6:27:18 and Steve had done it in 5:26:47. So what do I think about competitive events now... well I can't stop thinking about how I can shave off time (maybe ditch the tripod and stop taking so many pictures!) and get closer to Steve's time..... and that clearly demonstrates why competition is dangerous!!

Probably spent an hour in these bean bags catching up after a great day
Aftermath - A great weekend, finished by an evening at the Clachaig Inn, and bizarrely on the journey home somehow I got involved in a whisky tasting session, 11am at the Green Welly Stop (Steve drove). A very memorable adventure for me, worth the wait and minimal training ;-)

Whisky tasting at 11am..... brilliant

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Yorkshire 3 peaks

Last chance for training before the Tour de Ben Nevis race so thought I'd get up early and try and get in a 65km ride in the Yorkshire Dales. I headed North from Ingleton to Ribbleshead before heading over the Cam High Road towards Dentdale and looping back on the Pennine Bridleway passing over the tops to Austwick before finally dropping into Clapham through the tunnels and the final road section home.

Ingleborough (just before being chased by cows!)
 It was nice being out early before most and I saw lots of wildlife as I cycled through the hazy cool morning. Bizarrely I got chased by cows twice and I saw a red squirrel high up on the moor which must have been at least a mile from the nearest tree. That's that then, the last big(ish) ride before the pain next weekend!

Ribblehead Viaduct

Pen y Ghent (in the mist/background)

Have I really burnt 2297 cal, thats a lot of cake to eat now

Monday, 8 September 2014

I should have been here a month ago..

Plan A was to head to Southern Scotland for a days mt bike ride, however after a very tiring week at work somehow the motivation wasn't there to get up  before 6am on Sunday. Plan B was to get up a little later (7am) and head over to the Pateley Bridge in the Yorkshire Dales for a 40km ride, so this is what we did.

Gouthwaite Reservoir

Which way

The ride headed North from Pateley Bridge alongside Gouthwaite Reservoir before heading up and over't moor to Scar House Reservoir. Dropping down to this was steep technical and fun, a couple of annoying dirt bikes overtook us and we met a man on the track looking for a group of teenagers he had lost (lets hope they appeared!)!

Whats Abi spotted - keep your eye on the ground!? Scarhouse res down below

Abi on the easier bit of the steep descent
Sadly what goes down, must go up again (lots), but once we regained our height we cycled along a brilliant long balcony trail arcing back South Eastwards over Masham Moor, Lofthouse Moor and Cockle Hill. It was great weather all day, but we were both pretty tired by the end.

All uphill....

Moorland cruising

The trouble is that I should have been cycling 40km routes a month ago, and should now be up to 60-70km in preparation for the 72km mt bike race I have in 2 weeks time! Now I think about it my weakness is that I'm not competitive and worried about training because I just enjoy getting out on the bike. We shall see how Scotland goes....

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Autumns turn

Greeted by a grey and damp morning I stayed in bed and didn't go out with Steve on his crazy 80km mt bike ride early this morning - in the end he didn't go because of the rain ;-). Instead I had a few cups of tea and watched the swallow's gather on the telephone wires outside our house and have one last 'hurrah' before they headed South on their migration back to South Africa. As the swallows left I also noticed that the starlings have started to gather and flock, a definite sign of the changing of the seasons - 'time and tide wait for no man'.

the swallows on the march - a sad day. See you next year...