Scotland Coast-to-Coast 2013 Race Report Part 3

The final and third instalment of the Tough Gaffs Team trek across Scotland.

Update: Sean would like it noted that in this particular part of the report, I seem to be using a level of typical British understatement not seen since the Glorious Gloucesters told the yanks that they where having a ‘spot of bother’ with the Chinese at Imjin River……The rain was biblical and would’ve had Noah reaching for his Jewson’s trade card. The ups would’ve made Sherpa Tenzing call it a day and tell Mr Hillary to carry his own bags. And downs that made Dante’s nine levels of hell look like a trip to the food hall in Marks and Spencer……

Day one completed, we retired to the rather lovely Inch Hotel and had an equally rather lovely dinner. I was feeling slightly more human and an early(ish) night helped me start Sunday with bit more pep. Good job too as the severe weather warnings were still firmly in place, that said the weather outside the window didn’t seem as wild as we thought it might be when we set off.

The first stage of day two was a 38 mile bike ride, mainly off road. We’d spent some time the night before changing the bike tyres for slightly grippier ones but had been told that there wasn’t much true off road and pretty much any bike could cope. As evidenced by the lady who completed the event on a ladies shopper, much to Sean’s annoyance.

The first part of the cycle was along the canal path, flat and wet, for a few miles before we headed up fire roads and then into the proper muddy bits. That was quite fun, though required some hefty braking for most of the downhill parts. Fiona on a mountain bike had a very enjoyable time of it, Seanie and I on hybrids, a little less so. The severe weather held off for the most part. Though it did piss it down a lot there were also a few periods of sunshine.  Unfortunately they became more infrequent and we got soggier and soggier.

The ride was flatter in general and after we can down from the forest fire roads there was a fairly nice run along the side of a loch which was most enjoyable. After a decent nights sleep, I was feeling a bit more zippy. I also had the mental boost that today was a shorter ride than yesterday’s. So as I had completed yesterday’s, then I could do today’s. The 14 mile walk didn’t phase me as I knew from the Wall I could do that distance, even if it would require enough pain killers to stun a small horse.

1267774_10152194389603362_1305633573_oThese events are always educational. From our first trot out at the Grim 8 which taught us many things, this one taught us the importance of checking the state of your brake pads after Day One. The final part of the ride was on an A-road, which you joined  just after coming down a hill. I had some issues stopping, Sean very nearly didn’t stop at all and had to spend five minutes at the side of junction while his bottom stopped doing the 5p-50p dance. The picture to the left is of my brakes pads, Sean’s had even less stop in than that. So next time, as well as changing tyres we’ll be checking and changing pads.

After that near death experience, we pedalled on in the rain to the bike transition, fairly soggy and happy to be out of the saddle. A quick swap of clothes and off we set; up.

Our love of up is well documented and there was much up for us to whinge about enjoy. There was also lots of rain. Lots and lots of rain. Including rain that hurt, we believe this is called hail. That hit just as we stopped going up to go along for a bit. On we plodded, it was OK, but we weren’t particularly looking forward to the last big hill before we descended to the final kayak over open water. The route took in the old military road created by General Wade, as immortalised by the sixth verse of national anthem to which the great sage of the north, Billy Connolly took exception to.

He’s wrong about both the verse number and lyric. It was/is “And like a torrent rush”. I am being picky only because the actual lyrics areIMG_3414 so apt. The Military Road was more like the Military River. We paddled up it, we paddled down it. Every now again torrents cut across it and we jumped or waded (pun intended) across. There was no sign of the final hill though and it really seemed like we were losing height steadily and that there wasn’t enough distance to get the threatened huge hill in.  Our suspicions turned out to be correct when our fellow friendly competitors caught up with us and informed us that due to the weather warnings the kayak stage had been cancelled and the walk re-routed. Instead of the big hill, we were indeed heading down to be picked up by a coach to get to the official finish, and most joyous of news, we had only a couple of miles to go.

Obviously a marshall had given them that bit of info the distance was out.

We continued down. Some of the down was actually pretty treacherous, lots of slippery uneven stones and boulders that took some navigating. We eventually got to a road, found the small unofficial finish, handed over our time chips for scanning and then headed to the bus. After a short wait we set off the official finish, where we enjoyed the unusual experience of queuing to get over the line.

1235444_617647441632929_1816583454_nThe finish was a bit of an anti-climax, though much preferable to endangering competitors on water, everyone was freezing and trying to cram into the very small finishing marquee to get their t-shirts, medals, goody bags, which was actually a grab a mars bar or snicker, and get the final photo done.

I think it was Sean’s favourite event of the year and he’s already talking about doing it in 2014. I’m less convinced, though if I could guarantee I wouldn’t be so damn knackered before I set off I might be tempted.

Obviously after the event, and finally getting back home I spent the next few weeks resting and recuperating.

Oh that’s right, I instead flew off a ten day, four city, three country tour of Africa. Popping back for a weekend to take part in the Cardiff Survival of the Fittest – report on that to follow fairly soon.


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