Day 10 – Spean Bridge to Tain

by

Derek: Today started with plenty of optimism and excitement. We had a good breakfast at the B&B (our standard professional athlete’s breakfast of porridge, and scrambled eggs on toast). We then set-off bright and early at about 8am.

From there, however, things went down-hill. Or rather, they didn’t. Yesterday as we ended the ride, I could feel a slight twinge in my left knee. Overnight I put on a support bandage thingy, but this was a bit tight so I had to take it off to prevent haven’t to cycle with only one leg.

A mile into our morning ride, we hit the first climb. As climbs go it wasn’t too major, but as we weren’t warmed-up, it was quite tough going. At this point, my knee really started to become a pain (literally), and for sympathy, my right calf decided to join in too. After less than 90 minutes I was cursing and seriously considering getting off my bike and going home. Having come this far though, I have vowed to myself that nothing is going to stop me from finishing, even if I have to push the bike the final 90 miles.

While this was a good and right decision, it didn’t make the rest of the ride any easier. We both seemed to be very tired and were suffering all morning. Apparently, we cycled past some nice scenary and Loch Ness, etc, but to be honest I wasn’t really paying any attention – it was iPod on, head down, and just keep peddling, just keep peddling…

Eventually, after what seemed like an age, and quite a few climbs on what the guide-books call a “relatively flat” ride, we arrived at Inverness where we had lunch.

After lunch, we decided it was quite cold outside, so we added some layers. For me, that meant 1 pair of padded under-shorts, 1 pair of cycling shorts, 1 pair of bib cycling shorts, 1 pair of padded long trousers, a cycle top, sleeves (yes, seperate to the top itself), and a jacket. This was much warmer. Unfortunately, about 10-15 minutes later (just after we had set off), the sun came out, so we were too hot, and had to call for the support vehicle to come and collect our clothes while we stripped off on the side of the dual carriageway.

From then on, the route and cycling improved greatly. A few good long decent climbs, but in general a much smoother and nicer ride. There was also a fantastic descent over about 3 miles which was great, but freezing cold because of the wind. We decided not to call the support team to get our warm clothes back again though.

We eventually arrived at Tain, which is home of Glen Morangie whisky, and in fact we are staying at a B&B in Morangie road.

So, 90 miles done today and about the same to do again tomorrow – for the last time – ever!

p.s. I’d like to thank the chap that drove past us flashing and waving – I assume he works for O2 at Alness as that was where we were passing at the time. Either that, or he just likes men in Lycra.

Mike: What a difference a day makes!

I suppose after the exhileration of yesterday we should have expected today to be a little “down” by comparison.  We knew we were doing the distance today but also expected the Loch Ness run to be flat.

So today started cold, misty and damp (with plenty of midges).  I couldn’t find my cycle computer either and wasn’t prepared to waste too much time looking.

Within minutes of leaving the B&B we were climbing, then more rolling hills (undulations really) all the way to Fort Augustus at the near end of Loch Ness.  I had no idea what speed we were travelling at so just kept peddaling at what felt like a sensible rate.

Whether it was the conditions, the tiredness after yesterday or something else I dont know but this morning I was at my lowest point in the whole ride – the thought of surrender did cross my mind briefly, hastily chased away by “NO – come to far!” and that was that.

At one point Becky drove passed us so we flagged her down and I donned my long trousers as I was really struggling to keep my leg muscles warm. That helped with that problem, but unfortunately not with the lack of energy or the sore bottom..ho hum.

We did get to do some real racing stuff at Fort Augustus where Becky held out Snickers bars which we grabbed while cycling past (that was easy, getting them in to the back pocket of my hi viz jacket was much more tricky)

For some reason, I had imagined the road by the side of Loch Ness being similar to a canal path (right by the side of loch and completely flat) – it isn’t.  Well, about a mile of it is, right at the far end.  The rest goes up and down and isnt very close to the loch either.  As a cyclist, I determined that it was actually not a hugely interesting piece of water.

When we arrived at Inverness we were well and truly ready for lunch (which was deeply appreciated).  Like Derek, I changed my outfit too and briefly wore 4 layers but found I couldn’t cycle so had to get changed in the Tourist Information toilets (which meant stripping down to almost nothing and re-dressing).

What a difference a break makes! The afternoon, was much much better and we were amazed at how well we felt.  We made great progress and climbed the first hill out of Inverness without noticing it.  The second one we noticed but it was “do-able”, there then followed a 3 mile descent to the bridge which was excellent but very chilly as the north wind had nowhere to go and decided to hang around in our faces all day.

The rest of the journey to Tain was relatively flat with some minor uphill stretches but we were now determined to get there – Tain being the home of Glenmorangie whisky and it was calling me…  At one point I was doing over 20 mph for several miles apparently (not that I knew without my computer)

Arriving in Tain was a relief.  The B&B is quaint (I think thats the right word) but to be honest after over 90 miles it could have been a shed.  The thing we all noticed was how light it is, both in terms of clarity and that its 9.30pm and looks likes it 6pm.  Sleep will not be a problem though.

The end is in sight…roll on tomorrow night.

Bex: This morning the boys were less than cheerful at breakfast…. after such a cracking day yesterday it was always going to be tough with the tiredness today and they were obviously suffering (their faces were actually grey) but off they set in the midge haze that surrounded them…

I met up with them an hour and a half later, not too far from Fort Augustus and was  worried for them, yesterday and that first hill had really taken it out of them, but a boosting Snickers later they put their heads down and ‘just kept pedalling!’

I then shot off to Inverness in such of extra padded cycling shorts for sore bottoms and a lunch venue and the boys met me at 13:30 having done 55 miles of a 91 mile stint. At lunch you could have heard a pin drop and I think there was whole 5 minutes where nothing was said and I was pondering my Dilemma….

I had driven further on from Inverness whilst on a recce for potential lunch stops and knew immediately after lunch they had a horrible hill climb. My dilemma was should I actually tell them about it, so they could psyche themselves up or just let them pedal off blissfully unawares?? I chose not to say anything at lunch itself but hint as they actually set off.

This afternoon was thankfully a lot better (after the first hill) and definitely helped by the sun coming out and a shorter distance to cover. I left the boys 20 miles before Tain and shot off to check us into the B&B and buy much needed ‘treats’ for the boys on their arrival…. A bottle of Glenmorangie and some more Nurofen!!!

The guys seemed much happier tonight and after an excellent meal at the Royal Hotel, its time for bed and some sleep in preparation for the big day tomorrow!

Beer of the Day: McEwans 70. Creamy head, gassy, but otherwise undefinable and unremarkable… there were lots of things it wasnt but nothing it was (if you know what I mean!?!)

Whisky of the Day: Glenmorangie. (Being in Tain, it couldn’t be anything else really could it). Crisp but mellow with some comples overtones. Ah let’s face it, it’s wonderful stuff.

Alternative review by Bex:- Very drinkable. Peppery and Smokey and doesnt put hairs on your chest (at least it hasnt yet!!!)

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One Response to “Day 10 – Spean Bridge to Tain”

  1. martinakanitram Says:

    Hi Derek & Mike,

    Keep up the good work, I have really enjoyed reading the last few entries and your desriptions of the terrain are great, allowing me to relive the pain of cycling up there a few years ago. I m not too sure about the whiskey & Nurofen cocktail, but I bet you sleep well. If you get a chance try Glen Ord, it is a very smooth one and their motto is “Shine not burn” which is very true.

    The long days up there are great and I really miss them.

    I will think of you later today as I imagine you will be going through Helmsdale which is pretty steep to say the least.
    Cheers Martin Knight.

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