19 January 2011

strathpuffer + cairngorm= awesomeness

hmmm, i look down at my bike. i'm pretty sure that pushing the pedal down, should move the bike forward. the cranks shouldn't just spin, should they? i have to double check myself. it's dark and windy, the rain is falling and i'm on lap6. i probably shouldn't be feeling this spent so soon into a 24hr race but it's to be expected...and we wont dwell on *that* now.

yup, the bike is officially knackered. i hate to admit it but my first thought is 'oh, well and least that's a decent excuse!' but during the long walk back to the start line and potential assistance i decide that the worst case scenario is to change into fell shoes and jog round with the bike. i recon i can manage 2 laps and then stop, feeling like i've not totally given up. yup, my brain is officially knackered.

fortunately the lovely kilted mechanic was able to liberate the freewheel...using a massive hammer and a few mini chocolate rolls. i say fortunately...this meant not only swapping from an 18 tooth to a 16 but now i had no excuse not to push on. strangely at this point someone asked me 'why strathpuffer?' at that moment i couldn't really explain, it took a few more laps of thinking.

firstly the course is ace, whatever the weather. ice, mud, snow, wind and rain, it's still ride-able. but it's more than that. yes everyone involved is really friendly and there's a true sense of camaraderie on the trail but you can say that about a lot of events. i think for me, the reason i came back for more and the reason that i'll be back again, is because it's hard. it's really blimin' hard.
strathpuffer 2011 20
photo taken by aviemoron

i managed to keep going for a few more laps but in reality i spent more time drinking tea and scoffing ritz crackers. i just didn't have the legs or in fact the arms to do anything amazing. and there were some amazing efforts going on, just take a look at the results. everyone i spoke to had tales of big spills and bike failures, and pretty much everyone i spoke to offered me tea and cake. yes, strathpuffer is a brilliant race. i rode my bike, i pushed my bike, i smiled and sang to myself. i had a brilliant time and came away with some very generous prizes. for this i feel a little guilty, next time i hope to do the race justice and i hope to take up some of those offers of tea. is it ok to bank the, very much appreciated, offers of a brew and shelter for a year?!

...and so on to cairngorm recovery. on monday i swapped wheels for planks. the smell of cold air and hot wax is so evocative to me. takes me back to be being a fearless child, shooting off down mountains getting to the bottom, being told to put more sun screen on and refusing. getting on the lift and doing it all over again. this time my lips were already badly chapped, probably from the dehydration of yesterdays activities. there was no one to tell me to stop for lunch and only my mashed quads reminding me not to razzzzz too hard. up, down, up, down, up, down.... not a day for off piste but a fantastic day on the hill.

on tuesday i traded the skis for spikes and headed off to coires. feeling tired and lethargic i trudged up to coire an t'sneachda. approaching the amphitheater of dark buttresses and snow filled gullies a gush of excitement crashed over me. i found a 'second wind'. just look at it, how can you wish to be anywhere but here?

hot blackcurrant from a flask only tastes this good, when the sheltering behind a rock whilst cold fingers fiddle with crampon straps, munching a chocolate bar and trying to ensure your map doesn't blow away. pretty much perfect. a quick scamper up the goat track reminds my legs of the previous days efforts. onto the plateau and the cloud comes in. not quite a white out but enough for me to realise that i need to concentrate.

suddenly the wind stops, total silence. i can see a boulder behind me but nothing else. no horizon but more importantly no cornice. a few deep breaths, trust the compass, check the watch and count the contours. slowly but surely i make way around the coire rim and up onto cairngorm summit. there were fleeting breaks in the cloud, views snatched between map fumbling.

then all too soon i'm back at the car. a car that's filled with adventure potential. shall i stay another night, i could camp out or even bike over the other valley. or maybe one more day of skiing but there's something missing. actually two things, obviously i've no energy left what so ever but i miss jane. all this fun without her, just doesn't seem fair.

so, 9hrs after getting off the hill i'm back home. tired and happy.


Simon said...

Simply inspirational. A brilliant post. LET ME OUT OF THIS OFFICE!!!!!!!

starfish264 said...

Wow - amazing. Kate - you never cease to amaze / inspire / perplex me with your tales of adventures! Now rest those flipping legs for at least a day or they're going to fall off!!!

(Very jealous of biking and skiing in the same weekend. Or either separately at the moment. Sob). :o)

Pedalling Polarcherry said...

Great post Kate. Sounds like a proper adventure, I'm jealous x well done BTW great effort

Simon said...


kate said...

simon- yeh, it's been a revelation to me too...you can just do this stuff, you just have to do it. if that makes sense.

starfish- ah, cheers! well, if you want biking and skiing in the same weekend get up to scotland. of course you could go to the alps, not that much further to drive ;)

ppc- thanks. just wish i had the energy for a few more days of fun.

simon- that's exactly what i felt driving home :)

jumbly said...

Sounds like an alright weekend I s'pose, and not the sort of thing to make me jealous at all. Anyway, all the real fun was to be had in the 70mph winds on the edge of wet hill in Derbyshire......

Good effort in the 'puffer. The offer always stands to be your pit crew, I'll maybe even learn how to change freewheels for you!

trio said...

I agree Jumbly, sounds rubbish!

You obviously didn't try hard enough if you could ski the day after.

Ian Charters said...

Sounds like a good weekend and all the better for cramming so much into it. Great post too.

Dorian Grey said...

Mmmmm hot blackcurrant juice..Mmmmm chocolate :) Your weekend didnt seem too bad either ;) ha Good one Kate :)

ultra collie said...

what an absolutely brilliant time you've had..soul food :)
i didnt realise you were so multi-talented either!

Rocketdog said...

you are now officially my Heroine, i could almost feel the pain in your puffer description, just wait til next time you'll rip it's legs off

a Big GO U!! from me

Runningbear said...

Great to read news that adventures resume... your full of secret talents, a bit 007 like but a girl.

Hayfella said...

Fantastic post. Colour, excitement, adventure and the ability to make every reader dead jealous! Good for you.

Spodhopper said...

*truly truly inspirational*

that is all. :)

kate said...

jumbly- thanks so much for the offer of support. how about a team marathon-schmarathon road trip?

trio- hmmm, maybe ;) thanks for the light loan. really, really helped. i owe you one :)

ian- just wish i had the legs for more!

dorian- cheers! hot blackcurrant is my secret fuel ;)

uc- what's that saying, 'jack of all trades....' ;)

rocketdog- cheers buddy! you should do it next year, can't recommend it enough.

rb- haha, i'm more of a goretex ninja ;)

hayfella- smiley rating 100/10 ;)

spod- ah sucks ;) if you're gonna do a 24hr put 'puffer on the top of your list. you wont be disappointed.

sbrt said...

Thats a weekend and a half. Congratulations on winning that fine looking trophy.

Joe Newton said...

All that adventure in one weekend and you didn't lose a toenail?!

swiss said...


me, i'm still not right and may even brave the doctor next week after getting a better idea of what i stuck into myself!

but i did get back (gingerly!) on the bike and, as a result, may have scored myself a titanium frame! hurrah for me!

and while i haven't been on the hills i was at the water on the west coast buying a new boat for someone else. it was sublime..!

and t's making noises about maybe doing the puffer lite in june but only if the midgie protection is at maximum!

kate said...

sbrt- paper plates are the way forward-very easy to polish ;)

joe- i KNOW! just one bruised elbow, amazing!!

swiss- t is tougher than me, i would not want to brave the midgies there, apparently it's 100 days til the start of the season! west coast water does sound sublime but i need more news on the bike front- rode or mtb?

swiss said...

van nicholas mamtor. very sweet. with a 1x10 i'm sure even you could approve of. need to do a teeny bit of fettling to get it to work for me and off for a shot tomorrow.

Paul said...

Brew is banked {subject to interest: large packet of cheddars} :)

Alastair said...

Wow - 'Puffer AND skiing! You're harder than me...

I did the 'Puffer too and made this little video: http://www.vimeo.com/19167269


kate said...

paul- cheddars, don't know if they'd last the journey north ;) but i'll give it my best!

alastair- well done to you guys, great result! don't know how you found the time/energy to make that film too-very nice btw.