Sunday, January 26, 2014

Finally, some winter weather


Julie and Martin

On Friday, Julie, Martin Wheeler and I headed down through straiton to stinchar bridge, for a familiar ride, but one we hadn't done in a while. It was great to see some snow on the ground, instead of the usual rain and gloomy mud we have gphad for the last wee while. After long though, we were getting hammered with hail and sleet, and that wasn't as welcome. A true grimfest of a ride, one which will surely earn plenty points in the karma bank for the summer ahead.

In summary, we did the Cornish loch loop, over the forest drive, or as the local roadies refer to it, the 'strada giglia', on to loch doon, then up and over the nick of the loup to loch bradan, before back to the car. Frozen toes, soaked, but still smiling. 19.5 miles, not a bad wee ride to get the post puffer legs going again.


Martin descending to Cornish loch


Cornish loch


Almost done.."


The legendary Strathpuffer


Calm before the storm....

So, after giving a week to digest the madness that is the 'puffer, I thought I better post up my thoughts. I don't intend to write a lap by lap account of the event, as I think that would be both bio ring to reader and writer alike, so I'll just share some thoughts.

Klaus and I set off later than planned for the 5 hour drive to contin, near strathpeffer on the Friday morning, as it's well known that the best spots to set up camp are snapped up pretty early on. We had booked a bed and breakfast in nearby beauly, but first had to get registered and set up our base for the event. We had a decent sized base and team for the race, five of us riding - Tom, Robin (a different one), Alan, klaus and myself all going solo. Tom had volunteered his dad, Ron, to be our pit monkey, and he didn't let us down. An absolute gem of a man that really couldn't do enough for us, whether it was making hot drinks, keeping the generator going with petrol or just a smile and a word of encouragement. Top bloke.

After getting set up, we were both ravenous, as we hadn't had lunch, so the carb loading began...

We then headed to the bed and breakfast, which turned put to be way better than expected, we only payed £55 for a twin room for the night, but the place was lovely, had a 15 metre swimming pool, games room and even (rather oddly) it's own church!. If your ever around the Inverness/Black Isle area, I'd seriously recommend springburn lodge, perfect base and the breakfast the next day was ideal too. We then popped into beauly to the comm bar for another pile of carbs, as we'd need them....

So, onto the event. Butterflies, lots of butterflies... I really was taking a step into the unknown, doing a 24 hour event, and both klaus and I agreed this would probably be a one off, as it takes a bit of organising, training and money too. I was really nervous wandering down to the start, as you have to leave your bike on the hill and partake in a Le Mans style 500 metre sprint start. Luckily, I met a few friendly faces on the way, which took my mind off of what was to come, one guy I hadn't seen for probably 7 or 8 years, which was brilliant. Billy Leckie, a big smasher of a guy, just kept telling me I was mental!.

So I never got to the start til right before the gun, and ended up in the 2nd row, right behind the guys who were in it for the victory (including TT legend and TV star Guy Martin) and got completely swept up into a fast start and too fast first lap, but I realised I was off too fast and slowed down for the next few. It's a long game, riding for 24 hours, no point in blowing your backside off early on.

I ended up doing the first 4 laps in 4hrs 10 mins, well ahead of my schedule. Klaus and I had discussed the previous evening, that a strategy of allowing 90 minutes per lap, including eating and changing stops, would see us around our conditions neutral target of 15 laps. So I then eased off, took some time to get some proper food, and did another lap before it was time to get the lights on.

It's a long night, you feel as if you've been churning away in the darkness for an age, just concentrating on the wee pool of light from your helmet lamp, and then chase king the time, it's only 11pm, and there's nearly half the race still to go. I probably should describe the course too.

It starts at the foot of the fire road, which climbs on and on for about a mile and a half, then a wee muddy track back through to another fire road, which undulates for another couple of miles, but mainly climbs, to the first technically tough section. A wee skinny bridge leads to a short, sharp rocky climb, and then a cracker of a lumpy, rocky trail across the top of the moor, which gets a hell of a lot tougher in the dark, especially with tired legs and mind. There is then a nasty wee zig zag climb, before a really nice descent from the picnic bench viewpoint. Then a flat section for a bit, then another nasty wee up, before an über fast descent into the main camp area again. 6.2 very tough miles all in.

There are also an unbelievable amount of people out on the course cheering you on, clapping, ringing cowbells, and all sorts, which is brilliant, really brilliant. This really drives you on, especially the thought of flying down the last descent with all the whooping and wailing.

I had a bit of an off on a very innocuous rocky section on lap 6, the first dark lap, and landed heavily on my knee, and couldn't believe it when I did the exact same, on the exact wee dip on lap 9. I stopped for food after this lap, and probably sat down for too long. When I stood up, the knee was stiff, but I wasn't worried, I'd just cycle it off, as I'd done many times before today. It was not too bad on the fire road climb, but when faced with a steep wee up which required a bit of power, the knee was screaming with pain, and felt like it was going to explode!.

Not helping the situation, was the fact that my free hub bearings had packed in on lap 2, meaning I only had 3 useable gears, 1,9 and 10, in every other gear, the chain jumped up and down as the cassette was wobbling from side to side with all the play in the hub.

So, at forty four minutes past midnight, at the top of the final descent on lap 10, I chucked in the towel. Which was really gutting, as fitness wise I felt okay, it was only the bloody knee that was stopping this. I headed to the tent for a few hours kip, with klaus, who was about to hit the wall and needed a couple of hours rest.

Knee injuries seemed to be de rigeur in our group, with Tom managing 8 laps before succumbing to an old one, and Robin doing 13 before also retiring. Klaus manfully headed back out to complete another two laps in the morning, go on the big hairy fella!.

The winner was Jason miles, who had also won last year, with a ridiculous total of 31 laps, with Guy Martin one lap back in second. Awesome stuff. Lots of lessons learned, not least to get more sleep before driving back down the A9!.

All in, it's an amazing experience, the atmosphere, quality of riding, shared siege mentality and just down right madness of it all is very, very addictive. Did I say that we would only be doing this as a one off?.


Nonsense.... See you next year!.


Note - the adventure show on BBC Scotland usually shows the puffer sometime in March, both Klaus and I were interviewed for the show, but who knows if the masses are ready for our broadest ayrshire dialect.




Sunday, January 12, 2014

It's puffer time....

Well, that was it. The last week of riding before the big event. I had a good week, out locally on Monday, again on Tuesday with Julie (her first ride back since breaking her collar bone) day off on Wednesday, then spin classes on Thursday and Friday. Saturday and Sunday, Maria had play dates both afternoons, Maz was working, so this meant I got out up dundonald hill with Robin both days. Excellent.

I'll only really ride to work this week, just to keep the legs turning, and get all my energy built up for Saturday. The strathpuffer is a 24 hour event (I avoid the word race, as I'm not racing! Just looking to endure!) which begins at 10am on the Saturday and finishes at 10am on the Sunday. It's done on a 7 mile course and the winner is whoever does the most laps in that time. There are solo, duos and quad races, but I've went for the solo, along with my fairlie massive buddy Klaus, and a couple of mates from GMBC.

There is around 7 hours of daylight, and 17 of darkness, so mentally it's tough. One thing I feel I have on my side though is that I'm pretty well used to the lows that come at 3 or 4 in the morning, as I've been doing shifts for over 15 years now. Circadian rhythms won't be my undoing, I'm quite sure of that.

Were pretty well organised too, with a couple of borrowed generators for power, as lights need recharging and food needs cooked, as well as a big industrial UV heater. Bring it on.

If anyone is interested in following the event, sportident do live time updates of lap times, just google strathpuffer lap times, and you'll see how poorly we are all doing! Look out for me, klaus Schlesiger, Robin Jamieson and Tom Downie, all puffer virgins and all solo.

Funnily enough, it's not the actual event I'm most worried about, it's the drive home! We'll get the heads down for a few hours first I reckon, then hit aviemore and the mountain cafe for a monster breakfast, before getting home. I'm pretty sure my first woman will have a belter of a dinner for me, possibly her speciality chicken pie, and then I'll sleep the honest sleep!. Then I've got a whole week off to recover. It's all falling in nicely.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The return of the 3 amigos!

Des, Robin and myself rode together for the first time since the lakes weekend in October today, great way to start the year and a marker laid down for keeping it going. We just did a variation of one of my local loops, up the river to Stair via Auchincruive and Annbank. 

Stopping at the Stair inn for refreshments is always on the agenda when Robin comes down, you all know his 'thing for soup' by now, and today was no different. Then back down through the mud and slurry to Ayr and along the beach front to prestwick. 40K and lots of mud. Bring on the puffer.

I then rattled together a nice Thai prawn curry for myself and my wee women. Mmmmmm.....

Friday, January 3, 2014

Where's winter?

This mild, blustery weather has definitely overstayed it's welcome, it's about time we had some frost and clear skies. I headed off for a few hours up the river today, as Maria had her wee pals round for the afternoon.

It's only really the 15 minute ride round the airport that is open to the wind, the rest of my local riding is generally in the trees, so pretty calm usually. The trails are unbelievably muddy at the moment, and with lots of trees down, and the amount of little branches that lodge themselves in wheels and derailers, progress is slower than usual.

Still enjoyable though, as ever. I went as far as stair, then did a loop out through the diamond wood and found another new trail, which was cool. I was only out for a couple of hours, and covered 15 miles, which shows how the trails have slowed up with the surface conditions.

I'm also still getting used to the yeti, but it's getting better all the time. I need to bleed the front brake, but I'm waiting for olives coming through the post, and I'm really looking forward to getting my own rear wheel and tyre fitted. Then it'll be 'my' bike, in my mind.

Back out tomorrow with the fairlie massive, as I want to beat my mileage for 2013!.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Bye bye 2013....

My strava shows 115 rides and nearly 3000 kilometres for 2013, which is okay, not startling, but also doesn't include my commuting and biking into town. Plan for 2014 is to hit 5000k. I'd thought about 5000 miles, but that's maybe a bit much (okay for a roadie, but riding a bike on Tarmac is pish easy, innit?).

I've got no excuses this year, I'm armed with all the bikes I need (want?) so I'm for giving it a right good go, and Maz is always cool with me going out whenever I feel I need fresh air. Lucky dude? Si señor!.

Anyway, first of January, I always like to get out and about and set the tone for the following year, and this year is no different.



I met up with Robin (eventually) and my puffer mucca, klaus, at fairlie railway station, and the plan was that after my good lady wife dropped me off I would ride back to the in laws to meet her. And that's what we did, to summarise -

Kaim game is pretty wet, woodland singletrack has a couple of trees down (I'll get the chainsaw out soon) lower woodland singletrack is slipper than a Scottish labour MSP, and then the blast along the beach is just the same as ever....

Glentress at the weekend with a few old friends, concluding another great start to the year. Bring it on.