I have an unfortunate flaw in my temperament. It is one that manifests itself as a bombastic confidence in my abilities that means I place myself in situations where my bravado convinces me that my actual, less than majestic, physical attributes are a trifling inconvenience to my determination to show the world what I can really do.
That was the case when I declared that I was to ride the 2017 Strathpuffer 24 hour mountain bike race as a solo rider. On my shoulders sat two versions of my conscience. One that had horns and held a trident boldly shouted in my ear “Come on, Scot, it’ll be easy – you can do it”.
On the other shoulder sat a more demure and knowing character in white who quietly whispered “Are you having a laugh?” As usual the trident wielding side to my personality won out and the next thing I knew I had entered the self-proclaimed (and slightly tongue-in-cheek) “Probably the best 24-hour, winter mountain bike race in the world”. The organisers’ proclamations are not unfounded – a US bike magazine included the Strathpuffer in its list of top 10 toughest mountain bike events on the planet. Such declarations are all that are needed to pique my enthusiasm. It is a shame then that my ardour is represented directly in a polar opposite to my actual ability to participate in such events.
I have actually competed in the Strathpuffer on two previous occasions, but they have been as part of a team of four and despite still being tough, there was an opportunity to bluff my way around, hiding behind stronger and more prepared members of the team. However my bolshie spirit was telling me that I couldn’t really say I had “done” the Strathpuffer until I had competed in it as a solo rider. Without any consideration of what was actually involved I launched myself into a mission of propaganda telling everyone and their dog that I was doing the event.
Despite being seemingly of a braggadocious nature my thinking was that the more people I told the more I wouldn’t be able to back out when reality hit me what I was doing. Unfortunately that is exactly what has happened and I am now in the unfortunate situation where (as I write this), a week before the event, I feel sick and backed into a corner without any escape route.
To back down now would be to insult my sad, but red-blooded machismo and indeed masochism. So, today, instead of bowing out gracefully and admitting I am under-prepared and out of my depth I will be lining up on the start line with 800 other fools such as myself, as you tuck into a hearty Saturday morning breakfast. Ahead of us will lie 24 hours of riding, 17 of those in darkness, and who knows what other trials and tribulations along the way? I am sure I will survive (at least I hope I do) and on my way around, probably at about 4am, I will be cursing and swearing under my breath as to why I couldn’t take up a “nice” hobby like chess or bowling.
But I know that as soon as I cross the line the pain will be forgotten quickly and the elation will have me planning my next adventure on a bike.
Where to Ride? Cleish
Suitable for? Road Cyclists
Distance: 3.5miles/ 6km
Start: OS Landranger 1:50000 Map : 58 NT 102 977
Description Cleish is just off the B9097, south of Kinross. The road featured here is really a linking route that climbs up and through Blairadam Forest. Although not a huge climb it will test the legs and is a popular area for local road riders and a venue for local clubs holding mid-week time-trial events.