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PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 11:30 pm 
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... and I'm seriously worried.

Well. A little bit anyway.

I'm now glad I built the Kaff with a triple, and having done almost 100 miles on it now it feels strong enough and comfy enough for the ride. And I reckon I can spin up fairly lengthy inclines and feel happy. It's the peninsula AFTER the climb that I'm particularly worried about.

Anyway, train to Aberdeen on Friday morning, meet with my brother, drive to Applecross campsite, then drive round the route (stopping at Kinlochewe to register, easier doing it the night before and registration is open form 6 till 8pm) and try and get some sleep before an early wake-up call and drive to the start.

I've got to the stage where I don't think I'm looking forward to this now, and I have to admit that part of it is down to big mass-organised events, and the natural magnet this proves for wankers with all the latest gear and endless egos to congregate. Hell, I'm leaving the peak on my helmet, wearing my 3/4 humvees and I've got a fecking Brooks saddle. Maybe I'm looking at it too much through the eyes of competing in a Merida marathon where testosterone levels were through the roof.

Oh, and I've done virtually no training save a couple of 30 mile rides. Everything else is just my daily commute. Granted this put me in good stead for a couple of 100+ mile rides last year, but this is different. Though I'm hoping the daily fixed ride will make riding with a massive 30 (30?!?!?) gears seem like a doddle.

Argh! What have I done?!?!

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 11:35 pm 
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30 gears? That makes it 30 times easier than fixed! Take pics of yourself throwing up over the handlebars :D

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 11:47 pm 
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AndyGates wrote:
30 gears? That makes it 30 times easier than fixed! Take pics of yourself throwing up over the handlebars :D


Git! :evil:

My brother will be there on his lightweight carbon fibre Focus Cayo Expert. I've already told him he's in for a wait at the end. Mind you, he's doing it on a standard double 'for the challenge'.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 9:39 am 
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Have a cigar at the top to celebrate.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 8:23 pm 
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We'll be thinking of you...




while we're quaffing beers in Munich :twisted:

Seriously, try not to let the saddos get to your, and enjoy the scenery.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 11:08 pm 
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Oh well....when it's done the food's good in the Applecross Inn. Beer's not bad either. :drinkers:
That coast road is a pig so keep some energy in the tank. You can let us know how it went, there's free internet access at the campsite while you're eating your stag burger & chips!

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2008 7:45 pm 
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At least the egos and wankers will probably hare off at the start, giving you a good opportunity to trundle past with a cheery wave once they've burned out.

And nobody's going to have such a snackable bike :smug:


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2008 8:55 pm 
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According to Metchceck, Saturday on the west coast looks to be dry, cool, with a light-ish NE wind. Could be pretty chilly on top of the pass. Anyhoo, much better than Embra (v. wet).

Good luck (and I recommend the scallops at the Inn ...)

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 07, 2008 7:00 pm 
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Full report to follow, but I survived (just, and very slowly). Was actually on course for my aimed 7 hours after the pass, but that 'light-ish' breeze was a hoolie along the peninsula. 20 miles of that just killed me.

1h11 minutes for the Bealach.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 07, 2008 7:23 pm 
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Well done :claps: :claps:
I did warn you about that coast road!

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 07, 2008 7:36 pm 
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And look, you managed to stuff your lungs back into your throat! :)

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 10:40 am 
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I was always the academic one of my siblings. My younger sister, and to an even greater extent my baby brother, both excelled at sports, while I was a regular last pick. Now this might sound like a bit of advance excuse making, but really it's a reminiscence brought on by floundering once more in my brother's wake at the Bealach Mor challenge.Quick precis, 90 miles around the Applecross peninsula, over the Bealach Na-Ba (pass of the cattle) which is reputedly the highest road pass in the country (a little over 2000 feet, and the climb lasting 6 miles from sea level), and a total ascent of 9,600 feet. And I was doing this with no more training than my daily commute, owing to a startling lack of preparation and no small amount of laziness.

Scary, scary, scary.

Still, I had my new Kaffenback, adorned with a triple. It couldn't be that bad surely.

Image
(waiting at the station to head north)

We drove into Kinlochewe the night before to register, heading down the hill into the village that was to be the starting climb. Towards the bottom we passed a Pomp rider, legs going like the clappers, pink bar tape, that I only later realised the identity of (so sorry for not stopping and saying hello!).

On the morning of the ride we drove the coast road from our campsite in Applecross (at roughly the halfway point), getting a further taste of what was to come after the Bealach itself. While the three main climbs are over in the first half, the coast road is a rollercoaster from hell.

Image

Image
(the bealach the night before)

Image

Image
(and the view over to Skye)

And so to the ride itself.

The first climb, about a mile of uphill from Kinlochewe, wasn't exactly easy, but early in the ride I was learning to love my granny ring. I was hoping to love the top end of the triple on the other side, but this was the first time I got to know the wind intimately. Heading down I could crank up to 30mph, but any freewheel dropped 5mph off that top speed, and as the road flattened out it was proving hard to maintain 13mph. Having not paid enough attention to the map I simply plugged on, not knowing how long I was going to have to suffer. The answer was around 8 miles, at which point, being guided right round a roundabout, there was that glorious feeling of not only being out of the wind, but being pushed along to an easy cruise that started building up the average speed.

This was the time to enjoy things, and conserve energy as I bore down on the Bealach. Mind you, I'd forgotten about the climb out of Lochcarron, after the first feeding station, but again I geared down, stared at my top tube (I now know every little blemish and mark on there) and ground out the hill, with the promise of another fast descent on the other side. This time about two miles long, and leaving the cars behind.

The sun was out, I was feeling pretty strong, and I was already looking at the bottom of the Bealach. At this point my aimed for time of 7 hours was still very much a reality. And stunningly this remained the case over the Bealach, though I have never found myself fighting a hill so much. Actually, the first two or three miles are pretty easy going, ascending the foothills I had time to pop some Jelly Belly sport beans (secretly wishing they were Astana Beans) and practically drain one of my two water bottles. And then the steep sections came. Allegedly some are 1 in 5, and on the bike they certainly felt it, though I suspect that particular gradient is achieved on the inside of the switchbacks at the very top.

I took to hopping between passing places (though with the road closed at this point it was a case of riding wherever you want). I've found it works for hillwalking, to aim for a point, knowing that you can grant yourself a quick breather and move on from there. I was going to ride this whole damned hill, I wasn't going to walk. And it was proving a worthy option as I passed 3 or 4 people on the way up. All the while I was staring at the switchbacks, knowing that meant I was practically at the top. And I started having quite long and earnest conversations with myself. Not quite 'I am a tiger', but not far off.

The relief at reaching the switchbacks, and a slight easing off on the steep climb, sat me back in the saddle. And it was at this point my right thigh exploded. Now I'm not one for suffering cramp, so this was a sudden and painful reminder of how hard the climb had been. And it was a case of get your feet on the ground before you topple. I spent about 5 minutes stretching the leg out, bending it, having it cramp up again, swearing through gritted teeth, repeat ad nauseum. But gradually I got back control of the rogue limb, and gingerly pedalled off ever upwards.

Every stroke the thigh felt like it was about to make its presence known again, but somehow I reached the top, past the photographers and well-wishers, and gratefully had one now empty bottle filled, and pulled on the windproof for 6 miles of downhill. I would say 'relaxed' downhill, but the warning signs at the tight turns, with sheer drops and rocks off the side, meant paying attention all the way. But here I was enjoying myself, tucked down, feathering the brakes, and catching two riders, one of whom had a lead of almost a mile on me at the top.

I was, at this point, about 15 minutes inside the time I was aiming for. So while I joked about stopping in Applecross at the feeding station at the bottom (flapjack-a-go-go!) I just wanted to get on and see what the coast road held for me. And unfortunately I got an unwanted answer.

It was here that the ride turned into a complete nightmare. Rounding a corner the wind suddenly made itself known. I've no idea how strong it actually was, but it felt about a constant 20mph, with bigger gusts. And my head went after a mile of it. Sure the body was tired, but it could carry on, instead my brain started telling me how hard this was, how hard it would be for at least another 30 odd miles, and how I wasn't going to be able to do this.

Earlier I had been talking to myself. Now I was shouting. Most incomprehensible 'wwwoooooaaaaarrrrggghhh!' at nothing in particular.

55 miles gone and I found my sister parked in a layby taking photos. Apparently I was still only 40 minutes behind my brother, although he was looking pretty fresh. I could feel a second wind brewing, and reinvogorated set off into further battle. Which lasted all of about 10 minutes.

I don't think I've ever felt as dark on a ride and every little ascent became a mountain of greater proportions than the Bealach. I kept telling myself how stupid this was, and why don't I just pack it in. I texted my brother with my doubts, knowing he'd only pick up at the end. I texted Mel, and choked back the tears. What in god's name was I doing?

And yet still I carried on. We turned for some respite inland, away from the wind, and I latched onto a group of three other riders who I had played leapfrog with for a while, but who now seemed settled into a similar pace as me. The downhills started helping with momentum to get up the inevitability of a climb on the other side, and we chatted about bikes. And then my bloody thigh went again. Another 5 minute stop and the guys were gone. And once again on my own the doubts kept creeping back, until I saw a small settlement and convinced myself it was Shieldaig, a mere 17 miles or so from the finish. I laughed, and berated myself for the previous doubts.

Rolling up to the feeding station the guys who had dropped me were still there and talk was of there only being two more climbs, then the last 10 miles from Torridon being flat. The darkness was still there, but I could at last see through the gloom. Ah, a ride of such mixed emotions. I managed the first of the last climbs with a spring in my step, hopping out of Shieldaig, but once again into the face of the wind, and as the second of the hills loomed above doubts crept in again, which over the other side were not dispelled as I realised those ten miles to Torridon would be straight into the wind, which was being funneled down our valley route.

I was going to pack it in. 10 miles from the end. A quick call to be picked up, and hand in my timer at the last feeding station at Torridon. It wasn't actually me that convinced myself this wasn't a good idea, but the last marshall, who figured if I'd done 80 miles I might as well take it easy and do a last 10. And the girl from the St John's ambulance van that had accompanied us most of the ride (being the tailmarkers), a 15 or 16 year old, with shouty enthusiasm (who 7 miles later would declare her love for me as I rode past them again...).

Endorsements of 'you can do it' ringing in my ears weren't enough for that first 5 miles though, as I went back to shouting at myself (though not, peculiarly, at the boy racer who basically ran me off the side of the road to get past). The wind was killing me slowly but surely. Cars were coming the other direction, loaded with bikes and riders long-finished the ride. Every single one, without fail, was giving the thumbs up, big beaming smiles of encouragement, which cheered the heart, but not the legs.

That is, until the last 5 miles. It's a bit late for a true second wind, but as the road turned slightly downhill I suddenly found myself turning the pedals in an ever bigger gear, and battling against it at a constant 20mph. It was the strangest feeling. I wasn't tired in the slightest, and as the finishing line came into sight I sat up, arms outstretched, and thanked those people who were still standing round to applaud home the last riders. I wasn't even bothered by the 'funny' comments of the announcer about being so late that all the tea and biscuits would be gone.

I was just happy that I'd done it. Somehow.

Immediately afterwards I responded with a very definite 'no' as three people asked me if I'd do it again. But now that feeling has subsided. I still want to get a 7 hour ride, not fast for most on it, but it was always my aim, and I was way off this time. It's also an excuse to indulge in another bike. I love the Kaff, and it was brilliant on this ride, and confirmed why I had built it the way I did, but a Mercian Velocita is calling, and I doubt I'll get it any other way.

Bribery. That's the way forward. Bribery for my body and brain, in the hope that next year I won't end up in quite so dark a place. Oh. And I might do some training.

Image
(tired the day after)

----------------

The stats:

Time from start to Bealach (about 36 miles) - 2h12m
Bealach climb - 1h11m
Total time - 8h37m (Second half took about 2 hours longer than the first, and after losing 40 minutes to my brother in the first 55 miles, I lost another 1h10m in the last 35...)

Image
(heading home)

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 11:16 am 
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Oh well done!

This is on my list of things to do, this is.

Sam

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 12:40 pm 
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Chapeau, sir, chapeau!

Jarvis - the Embrocation and a large drink for my friend ...


blackpuddinonnabike wrote:
... that 'light-ish' breeze was a hoolie along the peninsula.



That seems to be the Metcheck effect :doh:

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 12:42 pm 
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Ravenbait wrote:
Oh well done!

This is on my list of things to do, this is.

Sam


It's a very well organised event and I made a point of thanking all the marshalls at the various feeding points - very impressed with the set-up.

And about 4 separate people (three of them marshalls) commented on the bike and how nice it was. Either they were trying to pick me up from looking so glum or were getting tired of seeing the carbon fibre bikes filing past (though there were a few steel and alu contraptions). That all picked me up a bit.

But I need some training, and not having a two-week long illness in the month before the event, next year to be able to aim for the time that I really should have got this year.

Pedal for Scotland next Sunday - much more sedate. Hell, the Kaff will have its panniers on for that!

And RJ, I'll never turn down a bit of Embrocation.

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