I awoke to a cloud of midges and my alarm drilling through my head. I was using my Garmin as an alarm and had left it on the bike, way out of reach. I climbed out of the bivvy a little way, reached over and pressed snooze. I was asleep again almost instantly. I repeated this twice, both times still leaving it on the bike. Finally I removed it but couldn’t bring myself to get up. I set the alarm for another 40 minutes sleep.
This time when I woke I forced myself up. It was still dark but I was imagining Tom and Steve having rode through the night and passing me while I slept so I got up and got going. It was very thick cloud which meant my lights were not much use. I pressed on up and over both hills on the way to Fort Augustus, somehow managing to pedal up most of them. I rolled through Fort Augustus with clearly no chance of getting breakfast this early and pressed on down the Great Glen Way heading for Fort William. I wasn’t moving very fast by this stage and I was running low on food so this section seemed to take forever. 10 miles out of Fort William and I had no food left, those last miles were quite a struggle. I stumbled into the shop and tried to get everything I needed, my mind was not working very well. After scoffing down some food outside the shop I felt a bit better and it began to dawn on me there was not much left to go. It was just the West Highland Way back to Tyndrum from here.
With bike and body reloaded I set off for the final stretch that I knew well. The West Highland Way from Fort William to Kinlochleven is a good section of trail and I enjoyed riding it, the descent into Kinlochleven is great fun. I pushed on through Kinlochleven but felt really drained on the climb, it was just a case of putting one foot in front of the other. I tore down the Devils Staircase trying to enjoy the last big descent as best I could. I was enjoying some of the fresh faced walkers saying “good morning” as I went by, I had been riding for 8 hours already, I could barely believe it was still the morning. Another walker called out “and I thought we had it hard”. At first I disagreed with him since it is much more fun by bike but then I realised I had cycled over 500 miles to get there.
I rode as fast as I could manage all the way from here. Desperately looking forward to the finish and yet still enjoying some of the last stretches of trail. As I neared Tyndrum I heard a shout of “Go Andy!” from the road, I cheered something incomprehensible back and pedalled the final stretch even harder.
I had somehow timed a 560 mile ride perfectly and my girlfriend Sarah had driven straight from work in Glasgow to meet me, she arrived in Tyndrum just 10 minutes before I did. Steve Large, who had shouted from the road was also at the finish. I was overjoyed and could barely believe I had come in 2nd place. Pictures were taken and a few race stories were shared with Steve, he was a strong rider but had to drop out cause of knee troubles, yet he still cycled all the way back along the road from the Dundonnell area! It was then off to the Real Food Café for dinner where I kept falling asleep. It was a brilliant finish to a brilliant race.
Reflecting back on the race it’s hard to believe how much I enjoyed it. At no point did I not want to continue on the trail. Mentally I thought this race was easier than 24 hour races. You’ve always got the next section of trail to look forward to, not just the same track you’ve ridden countless times. I finished the race happy, not saying “I would never do that again”. It was by far the best adventure I’ve ever been on and I can’t wait to plan the next one.
Also check out Ian Barringtons excellent video of the race: