Thursday, 7 July 2011
Puffer Lite - longer version
I wanted a chunky epic and Plan A had been set up as a suitable candidate - a solo double ascent/traverse/descent of the Ben Wyvis massif unridden by me and without much local beta on one of the descents.
The weather got in the way of Plan A. Cloud was forecast. Cloud biking is not my idea of fun. Munro bagging when 50% of the route is guaranteed in cloud is downright odd. I like views - it makes getting to the top worthwhile.
So other alternatives were presented but did not pass muster.
It dawned on me that Plan B was right there in front of me - Puffer Lite. I was going to be there anyway providing some half-assed pit crewing for Jac. If I did it solo with the same mindset that I would need to put to Plan A - i.e. no slacking, no sloping off for a beer and a snooze because I was a little weary. Put some effort in. Reap what I sow and all that...
So I made a pile of water bottles, nuun tabs, a fistful of Mule bars and gels, made sure my Maxx-D was charged and decided to make the most of this surprise re-plan. In fact I was quite liking the element of 'surprise' and the fact that I had about 2 days to prepare - which mainly involved going for a ride and not cleaning my bike afterwards.
I felt quite liberated as I had no expectations as to how I would, or indeed, wanted to perform [for want of a better word]. As I was to ride sans Camelbak I thought I may as well go the whole hog and not bother with tools, tube or pump. I have ridden the Puffer course enough times that I know there there are few puncture opportunities, although I snuck in a extra couple of PSI just to make sure.
Jac and I arrive hungry. The Achilty Hotel bar is closed, they are only doing accommodation now. The Owner-Cook seemed much less odd, semi retirement must suit him. We snagged some random just add water products and small beers from the shop in contin and headed back to the van for a snooze.
After brief shut eye we were up and attem in a grumpy manner to find that he Red Poppy folks who were catering the event were not going to be serving pasta until after the event started! Gnnn.... Not impressed. A bag of chups and back to the van for some coffee and last minute faff.
Paul Masson dropped by - explaining his plan for photographing the event - which sounded more of a marathon than riding it. He was hoping to capture the beauty of the area and the uniqueness of having an event in such an amazing landscape as well as some the details and stories of the race. A big thanks to Paul for all the photos!
All too soon it was final loo calls and the Le Mans mince to the bikes for the first lap.
Keep a lid on. Steady as she goes. Eat. Drink. Time manage. Enjoy the riding and remember to look at the views whenever possible!
The course was a hoot - pretty much all dry with only the occasional spot of mud - and around 5 to 10 minutes quicker than the winter edition. It is engaging enough to keep interest levels high and the fire road climb has enough steady sections on it to enable refuelling on the move. The final descent is always fun - a smooth fast swoop through the trees. Except half the trees were missing where the Contin side of the hill had been clear felled, opening up the views and making the descent feel much quicker. BRAAAP!! And returning to Race Central a shade under 30 minutes later if you are Alex Glasgow, while I was hovering around 40-45 minutes mark.
I was going ok, and enjoying things, trying to ignore the banality of riding around in circles, which was less of an issue here with the scenery and the last descent is easily worth another run just to see if I can get a fasterSmoother line...
Around about midnight my stomach decided that all was not well with the world and that I was not treating it with the respect that a stomach should get. I ended up doing a crawler lap as I could not eat or drink anything and I was retching each time the trail got a little bumpy [which is about half the course...]
Eventually I pulled in to the van to see if a cup of tea and a pot noodle would sort anything. The tea helped a little, but I could only look at the pot noodle. So I ate what small scraps I could, grabbed a fresh bottle of water only, in case the nuun was the culprit and headed out on another crawler. At the end of this one I was still nauseous and unable to eat or drink much. Unfortunately for Jac her race had ended prematurely when her back brake packed in, fortunately for me I now had Pit Crew!
I changed into dry kit and wrapped myself in a sleeping bag while slowing eating a just-add-water pot of macaroni cheese. It was an insipid version of a majestic dish, but it was just what I needed. After another cup of tea and a strictly enforced 10 minute snooze-ette I was back out on the bike to see what was going to happen.
Much to my surprise I felt ok, in fact I felt entirely refreshed and was enjoying it all again. This coincided with the dawn lap, which for almost all other overnight races is a monumental occasion and generally makes everything ok again [for a while at least]. Here, because there is only 3 hours of official dark the light never really leaves the sky to the North and it is a curiously low key experience.
5 hours remained on the clock and I was feeling reasonably strong and able to stick to a gel only diet so upped the tempo a little to see what happened. Each time I passed Gordy Mac's team horse truck I got a good boost of encouragement. Gordy and his other two musketeers romped home to take the trios win - I reckon it mush have been the turbo trainer sitting outside their van that beat the competition down as much as anything : )
Again, the final descent drew me in and gave me the inspiration to get back up the top to go once more. Crossing the line 7am I was still lapping in around 47 mins, so I realised that I had another 2 laps! Ugh, I had hoped that I could stop but I drew some inspiration from a few sources - seeing how it is done properly by many folks at the Newcastleton 24/12 hours of Exposure and some of the stories from epic adventures [I'm currently enjoying some Tour Divide tales and Cass Gilbert's amazing things seen while out riding]. Oh, and that means 2 more runs on the descent - w00t!
Laps done, I dib for the last time and then go sit down. Jac brings over a beer and some of that pasta from the catering truck... better late than never, I guess.
I was quite chuffed with how it had all gone - I actually had fun and managed to keep going despite some stomach gremlins. I still felt reasonably fresh, but my back was beginning to grumble and hands were starting to suffer on the last choppy section of descent. I was happy with the 12hour-ness of it all.
Apparently I had somehow snatched back 2 places over the last two laps and come 3rd in the Solo category and 18th overall. As I had not been following the results this was a nice wee surprise. Ace!
PufferLite - a fun wee event which could easily do with a few more folks at it - keep it in mind for next year!
As the race is the officially unofficial Scottish Singlespeed Champs I was also crowned male Scottish Singlespeed Champ. I'm going to keep quiet about this as I'm not a huge believer in singlespeeds being a distinct category in a race - it is just a kit choice. Oh, and I think second place was a 12 year old... ; )