An earlyish start on Saturday morning saw Chris and I frantically pack the last few things and realise that we had no spare brake pads and not enough gels. So, we decided to stop off in Pitlochy on the way up to Golspie to pick up a crate of Grimbergen from Chris D and swing by Escape Route to pick up a few last minute provisions.
The few provisions turned into quite a chunky purchase, but the espresso Kev gave us both balanced it all out.
We eventually arrived in Golspie at around 4pm which meant we had plenty time to put up the tee-pee, have a snooze and fettle with bikes before the rider briefing. (The fettling with bikes saw a bit of Chris' brakes come flying off into the boot of the car never to be seen again. So there was a big thanks and some Grimbergen to Al from Square Wheels for coming to the rescue.)
The race started at Dunrobin Castle (about 2 miles away from the main transition area), so at around 7.15, all those doing the first lap made their way along to what must be one of the most spectacular start lines I've see. Around 50 riders lined up in front of the castle to start the first, longer than usual, lap. We all set off up the main drive of the castle when the starting rifle (yes, rifle, not pistol!) went off and quickly ducked off into some singletrack in the castle grounds. We then swung back around and rode along the track in front of the castle between the castle gardens and the sea. It was very difficult to force myself to keep riding rather than stop and stare at the beautiful view, but keep riding I did.
We then headed along the main street of Golspie to the entertainment of the locals and then off onto the long climb up Ben Bhraggie. Part way up was the fantastic "rent a crowd" who were at Strathpuffer earlier in the year. I swear they are such an enthusiastic and encouraging crowd that I want to hire them to come to every race with me! (Those of you who went to Strathpuffer might remember the crowd who were out on the hill ALL night.)
The climb up to the monument at the top of Ben Bhraggie was pretty tough on a singlespeed, especially with the techy rocky bit at the top, but I was promised by the marshall half way up that it would be worth the view and she wasn't wrong! Almost a 360 panorama of mountains and sea. It was only when my bar of McCowans Highland Toffee was thrust into my hand (as proof that I had done the longer first lap), that my attention was drawn back to the decent ahead of me.
And what a decent! Fast, techy, rocky, pretty sketchy, but ace! After around an hour of climbing, I reckon I was back down the hill to the transition area in around 20 minutes, grinning like a mad woman.
After that, we all settled into the fairly short regular laps (7.5k seemed pretty short, but with one long gradual climb on singletrack and fire road followed by a fairly techy singletrack decent, it was pretty much spot on).
By 11pm it was pretty dark in the woods, so my lights went on then, but out in the open you still didn't really need lights because the sky was so light. (If I could have figured out how to switch my stupid lights off, I'm sure I would have enjoyed the twilight much more.) Then by 3 am, dawn was well on the way and the light flooding over the north sea was lovely. There were several points where I did an entire lap without seeing another rider, so I had perfect peace and quiet to enjoy the view and the birdsong on my own.
Before I knew it, it was 4 am and I was having to figure out how many laps I still had in my legs and how many I could reasonably fit in before 8 am. I was feeling surprisingly okay, not particularly strong, but not the gibbering wreck I expected to be, so I plodded on.
At 7.20, Chris and I went out together for our final lap and very quickly found ourselves in a little pack of singlespeeders steadily plodding around together. We lurked for a few minutes to avoid having to go out for another lap and then rode in to finish just after 8am.
All in all, it was a pretty fantastic race. The venue was great, the views were amazing, the spectators were fantastic and I actually felt I had ridden pretty well. Although I still didn't get the red mist (I suspect I never will), I felt that I had worked hard and consistently for the whole 12 hours, so I was pretty pleased with myself.
Given the fact that everyone was pretty sleepy, the prize giving took place pretty promptly at 9.15. Although there were lots of sleepy people, there were a lot of happy faces, so it seemed like it wasn't just me who thought it was a cracking event. The whole thing was made even better for me by being awarded both winning female solo and Scottish Singlespeed Champion! What more could I ask for?
Let's hope the guys decide to run the event again next year, because it was a fantastic event with a great atmosphere. Thanks guys!
For now though, I think I need to rest my legs for a wee bit...well, after I've gone out for a scoot tonight maybe.