I was on my bike today for almost nine hours. 8:58, to be exact. And that's not total elapsed time, that's nine hours in the saddle, pedaling. It was kind of a long day...
It started at 5:30 with the combined alarm clock of "Manic Monday" and raindrops on the tent fly. We knew the rain was coming, and at the start, it wasn't too bad - more of a drizzle then a downpour. We headed off down the A82 along Loch Linnhe (I think that's the right name). It was a tense stretch: 600 cyclists plus rain (getting heavier all the time) dived by a narrow road multiplied by Monday morning traffic was a bad combination. There was one crash just behind us (touched wheels I think), but the camp rumor mill is deleting one broken leg, one collarbone, and someone taken down by a car. Suffice to say things were a bit nervous until we got through town and things thinned out a bit.
From Fort Suppliant we climbed up the spectacular Glencoe, slowly but surely getting wetter and wetter as the clouds dumped rain. And then the headwind started. It's a gloriously beautiful spot, even in the rain and the fog, but the temps were dropping - one of the truck drivers reported 3 degrees as he came down over Rannoch Moor, and we felt each one as we came flying down the long descent from the top. Thankfully, the first pit stop at 50 miles was at a cafe with hot drinks. Hooray for hot chocolate!
From there it was 24 miles to pit stop 2. The rain stopped and the skies started to clear, but the wind kept blowing right in our faces. The road continued up and down, passing through some beautiful forests and along isolated lakes. I kept expecting Mel Gibson to pop out from behind a tree, in a ragged kilt and blue woad. Such was not to be, unfortunately. The road narrowed to a country lane, barely one car wide, with fields full of sheep on either side. And the road surface got progressively worse - cracks, holes, eroded edges and stuff that felt like riding over our playroom floor when the girls haven't picked up in a while. It made for some tricky handling, tough when we were all tired.
Today was the first day I got into trouble - coming along from the second pit stop I started feeling kind of blown: not enough calories on board. Two chocolate chip shortbread cookies and a gel later, things started looking up again. I know how quickly food can turn things around, and that the first thing I should do when things start going badly is eat, but I still forget sometimes.
At last night's briefing, we discovered that today's route had been changed because of construction. We lost what Andy called "the second hardest climb" of the ride, which was slated for mile 103 of 113, but we gained "4 to 5 miles" total distance. Given the wind, and the fact that it ended up being almost 8 extra miles, I'm not sure I wouldn't have rather had the climb! Still, despite the rain and the cold and the extended dance version of today's trip to Glasgow, I still felt really good today.
Not so many pictures today, given the rain, but I'm hoping for more tomorrow, when we finally leave Scotland and start into the Lake District.