Getting back on the horse to go side to side in Scotland

After the disappointment of last week in the OCC I was lucky enough to have another event round the corner to throw myself into. The Rat Race organised Coast to Coast in Scotland summarised as run a bit, cycle a bit, canoe a bit!

I’ve previously done The Wall with Rat Race so I know it’s a commercial operation and their approach is quite different to other races but they also provide races others don’t and 1700 people rocking up in Nairn Scotland mean they are doing something right!

Anyway, bag packed with god knows how much stuff Rammers (the other part of the pair for the race) headed up to Heathrow for a flight to Inverness.

Being the finely honed athletes that we are, we attacked the BA lounge with gusto under the rationale of carb loading!

Uneventful flight and cab to Holiday Inn Inverness where we headed out for lunch, Pizza Hut buffet (WE WERE CARB LAODING). Before heading to Cawdor Castle to deposit our bikes in the transition area.

The logistics for the event are probably harder than the event itself! We were lucky some other friends were doing the race and their husband Mike was driving up with all the bikes for us. So, we would start in Nairn, run a bit to Cawdor Castle where we would find the bikes we left on the Friday, cycle to Fort Augustus where we would leave the bikes, canoe a bit and then camp for the night. Sunday, get bikes from transition area at Fort Agustus, cycle a bit, leave bikes somewhere (Mike was there to get them) and then run to Loch Levein before canoeing across to the finish! Simples!

Anyway, on the Friday we had two hours of basically faffage!!! I have never seen such bike faffage in my life… 1700 people tweaking their bikes and generally getting in the way. I was using a £100 bike so there wasn’t much I could do to it… I pretended by looking at it a lot before getting bored and dumping it in transition and getting a coffee!

I was a bit concerned about our bikes being stolen. Nope, there were 1698 bikes better than ours so we were ok!

Having sorted that out we got a cab back to the hotel where a belarussian cabbie explained the battle of culodden, got our gear sorted and headed to the bar for a quick sharpener before a pub dinner and some more re-hyradation!

Then in a scene straight from a romance movie on the big screen, Rammers and I (in our respective single beds) then watched naked dating! Wow just wow! After discussing the finer elements of naked people and that obviously us aside, as naked adonis’, we weren’t sure people should be going on the program, we drifted off to sleep!

Morning was a quick breakfast, get ready and cab to the start in Nairn. The start was in waves and quite low key really. We met up with Rammers’ friend from uni flick who was great throughout the two days, especially when we met her half way along the walk on day 2 and we were all pleased to see each other as were all quite low.

Anyway, touched the water and started a quick 11k following the river (well not that quick but…) and then a quick strip off to put on the cycling nappy shorts and helmet and off we went for a 71k cycle along Scottish roads. All rather pleasant really! I had a wobble at 20k where I think my energy had just got too low but after eating everything I had, I felt a lot better!

I managed to make a right tit of myself though. Stopping to take a photo, with one foot still in the cage, I got cramp and just fell in slow motion onto the road (only fools and horses style). Bloomin hurt but I had to do the, of course I’m fine, barely touched the tarmac etc etc, whilst inside I was crying!!! My so called friend, mocked me so much he was unable to come and help me up and left some passers by to do it!!! This was the spot

One absolute bugger of a hill and then down to Fort Augusts where we dumped the bikes and walked over to Loch Ness to do the canoe leg. Unfortunately, this was a total shambles… walked over to join a queue for about half an hour to then get a two man canoe and canoe about 400 meters round some bhoys and back to the shore to then walk back to Fort Augustus.

We did however meet a lovely Scottish lady (I thought she was, she was actually Irish) who was supporting her boyfriend in the race and who took pity on us and fed us, sweets, jaffa cakes, cookies, scotch eggs, sausage rolls and lucozade!!! We asked if we could keep her for the night which in hindsight may have led to her leaving abruptly….

Our tent had been put up by Mike for us (we love Mike) and we then proceeded to get ourselves organised, sleeping bags etc, have a shower and head into the food tent to buy some overpriced poor quality food and have a couple of beers. Having got bored of it, we walked into Fort Augustus to get some fish n chips and a beer. Rammers being a filthy animal had deep fried black pudding!!!

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We’re not talking about the night. Two big blokes in a small tent + bags does not equate to sleep!!! In the morning we decided we maybe should get some accommodation next time.

The morning brought rain, lots of rain, monsoon rain with a hint of downpour! Quick breakfast, and off we went on the bikes. The first chunk was off road followed by on road before dumping the bikes for a run. The 52k on the bike was broadly OK, the off road section was tough as it took a lot of effort to achieve not a lot and the course was very undulating so you never felt you got a good rhythm but we got through it and enjoyed being covered in mud. For the ladies amongst you, a photo of rammer’s muddy butt

A special mention here to Dan for lending me his sealskinz gloves, they were awesome and only gave in to the weather half way through the run.

The last bit into transition past the Ben Nevis distillery, I found really tough. The terrain was fine but i think I’d just run out of energy. Not wanting to stop as only had a couple of miles to go, the rain, wind in your face and suddenly having traffic made it tough. Anyway, got to transition, took off the nappy and helmet and gave it to Mike (sorry) and set off for the run.

The run, or more accurately hike, was along the West Highland way. Rammers and I were comfortable with it as we just thought head down and churn out the miles to the finish. In hindsight it was the toughest section as we’d forgotten to include the last day and a half in our calculations and the rain was just never relenting so you felt like you were battling the element constantly. A few miles in we came to a checkpoint where we were given confusing info on distance left and we had to have a bit of a chat to each other to man the f up and get this thing done. It was harder to head back to the start than to finish and no one was coming to get us in this weather. Head down slog, walking through water and we eventually came to a split where we realised we had been send down the bad weather route (another couple of miles but less exposed) and got to to the end of the hike section. At this point, if someone had said, you’re done, we’ll bus you to the finish, I’d have been quite happy with that! Instead we were then put in busses to the canoe section to then get in the canoe and cross the loch to the finish.

For the canoe, I wish I could tell you about it but to be honest, get in, paddle, keep paddling and get out to the finish!

To be fair arriving in a small cove, walking up the bank and down the finish line was pretty cool and we soon got the medal round our neck (the wrong ones, new ones being sent in the post) and got our voucher for a soup in the village hall.

Soup, goodbyes to flick and then trek across to the local football club to have a shower. Got undressed, realised there was no hot water and then got dressed again and headed to the local pub!

It was there that what we’d done started to sink in really when an old Scottish guy (he wasn’t, he was Irish it turned out) was asking all about it and as we explained it he was amazed. In the photo below this is not Rammers’ having aged, Buster Merryfield making a comeback but my new favourite Scottish/Irish man

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After a bus trip to Tindrum to meet our friends who had done the race and some food we were back to the hotel to watch match of the day 2 and sleep!!!

From the left Julie (who capsized her canoe and had by then thawed out), me, Simon (also plays rugby and helps me coach the kids), Ian (the same) and Rammers! Mike was taking the photo, never stopped working!!!

Over next morning’s breakfast and the flight back to Southampton I had some time to reflect on the last couple of weeks.

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It was great to get back on the horse so quickly and complete the event. It wasn’t as hard as the OCC or some others we’ve done but the multi day element really fatigued us and the weather gave us a whole new thing to contend with plus it was just good fun crossing a country with a good mate.

From a race perspective, I just don’t think Rat Race give you bang for your buck but whilst they’re selling out events at their prices I must be in a minority. The threshold events (race to the stones etc) are of a similar price but their checkpoints and general race support is of a different league.

Anyway, the plan now is to rest up a bit and give the body a break. Rugby season starts tomorrow so will sit down in the next few weeks, once I get the ballot magazine saying I haven’t got a place in London and make a plan. If anyone has any ideas or race suggestions, would love to hear them.

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