Surprised Myself

After driving to Pitlochry the first thing to do was get parked and register. The whole set up and organisation has become a finely tuned machine. Pitlochry was paacked and yeet everything was siimple. Once I had registered and checked everything out I headed out and drove the course. First time I have ever done that and think it was a great help during the race as i knew what to expect.

As expected I ended up back in Pitlochry and thought I would get the Mavic mechanics to quickly check the bike out before I headed out to the B&B I was booked in. The Mavic guys had been dealing with everyones bikes all day (free of ccharge). In fact one guys bike was pretty much rebuilt without any question by the mechanics; these guys were absolute troopers. Mine got a small tweak to the rear mech, other than that all ready for the race. The only big question left was what to wear.

My biggest issue was that I needed to maintain core temperature and yet if it rained, stay dry. Looked at ultra light water proofs but could not see anything (that I was willing to pay for) that was any better than the light weight running top I already have. So I left for my B&B with a new cycling cap to use instead of my winter skull cap.

View from B&B
View from B&B

Drove out to my B&B just outside Blairgowrie. Get little place well away from anywhere, but not too far to make the early morning drive too long. There is only a few things that keep me awake at night and races is one of them. So I spent a large part of the night thinking about what I was going to wear and the race in general. When the alarm finally went off it was almost a releif. For clothing I was still undecided so got pretty much set up for the coat free option but put my coat on over the top to keep warm and headed to Pitlochry. It was pretty clear morning, if not a little on the cold sided, a positive start to the day.

Parking was easy, and well organised (I had pre-0paid for my parking which is well worth it). Now was probably the biggest thing … I finally had to make up my mind on what to wear, so after a technical review (basically looking around at what everyone else was wearing) I decided to leave the shell in the car and slip a wicking tee between base layer a jersey. Stuffed my jersey pockets full of energy gells, my pump and lightweight water proofand headed to the start.

Starting crowd for Etape Caledonia.  Not like "Where's Wally", rather their all wally's.
Starting crowd for Etape Caledonia. Not like “Where’s Wally”, rather their all wally’s.

As you can see from here on in it’s a mass of riders and bikes. chatting with whoever is nearest you, you are slowly corraled towards the start. Every two minutes they launch two hundred more riders on to the course. I had no idea what my time would be so had entered a predicted time of 5.5 hours, this was used to set my start time.

I discovered that you are never alone; even if you came on your own. I quickly found I partnered up with someone of a similar pace and we proceeded to push through the cyclists in front of us. Before I noticed it we were at 10 miles and paniced that I had set off to fast. At this point I made a decision that I have always failed to do in the past; down an energy gell. I usually wait till it’s far to late and find I am working on nothing for at the end of the ride. We ploughed on and I made sure that I popped a gell every 40 mins or so. I soon found that our group of two had developed into a peloton on 10 (didn’t notice till I turned round and found them all drafting behind me). I discovered that asmuch as everyone is friendly, most people will use anything to make the 80 miles go a little easier. A few did pull there weight at the front, but when I had to stop briefly to tighten up my bottle cage that had rattled loose, when I finally caught up with the people that had been drafting me they were fairly well scattered.

Anyway, with my newly secured bottle cage, I ploughed on with only my original partner towards Schiehallion. It’s at this point that famous line from Kung Fu Panda II comes to mind … “Ah, my ancient enemy … Cramp”

The first stages of the climb were done with an onset of cramp in calves and quads and I knew that I had to plough on, so keeping in a low gear I span my way up Schiehallion and my legs eased and before I knew it I was at the top and still gaining time. This was when I probably first realised that I was fair tanking it along and maybe my time would not be too bad. Coming down Schiehallion with no cars to contend with was magic and definitely not slow. This is when we had the one bit of rain during the race, I did contemplate putting on the jacket and past a few people stopped by the side of the road doning theirs but decided I would manage fine as long as it wasn’t prolonged. It cleared up after maybe 20 mins and I was dry by the time I finished.

The last leg of the race was fairly fast with a following wind. In the end I got in after 4:25:09 and well pleased with how I felt and the rider in general. Winners time was 3:28:?, so I am no record breaker or champion but I loved the ride. Thanks to everyone who organised; would definitely do again.

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