A few years ago I had a desire to complete the West Highland Way on a mountain bike. Last year I decided to get it out of my system and do it. With a team of friends I set out to complete the challenge with a target of getting home in under 24hrs. Out of nine of us who took this challenge only two of us finished in under the 24 hour target, with a time of 23hrs 30mins. At different stages during the 24 hours the others had dropped out.
So, I guess I should be happy with completing my 100 mile highland route challenge and getting the tick in the box I wanted. I should be satisfied, but no, that’s not how I feel. In fact, Its been niggling away at me now over the last year, I have been wondering how quick I could complete the route solo without a team with me. This time it would be just be me and my own support crew.
I knew the last effort was a team effort and as happy as I was taking on the challenge as part of a team ( though only 2 of us completed the challenge) it left me with a slight feeling of disappointment. I couldn’t get the rest of the guys to finish the full route. I also felt I had been given a time of completion for a solo rider, when I knew I could go quicker without all the stops and starts the guys needed for additional rest or food, and while carrying team safety kit with us.
So, over the next few weeks I will be getting out on my bike more as I prepare to complete the course solo, using local hills to practice on. I will be cycling up them and doing lots of shoulder carrys with the bike for fitness before I take the challenge on again.
Of course, I will be hoping for better weather this time. Last year we were forced to battle through the night during a storm which was part of the reason some of my team didn’t make it. I also know the route a lot better this time round and have a great support crew in place for the event, so, at this point, I am feeling confident of finishing in a good time.
Over the years, I have not done a lot of challenges on a bike apart from training or the odd one off mountain bike race. Only last year I competed as a novice so that’s what gives me the excitement for doing this again. Like a lot of adventure junkies I need to have a real hunger for it to take it on.
Basically, what I am saying is I’ve only once had that feeling bikers call “hitting the wall” and that was last year. I had gone alone to Arran for a training day and took the bike with me. I decided to run Goat Fell and once I returned to the bottom of the mountain I quickly changed kit and cycled the full way round the Island. I had put a lot into both my run and then the cycle, and on the last few miles approaching Brodick I experienced “hitting the wall”, when I really began to fade.
I now have a taste for this and I am hoping to get a better understanding of it when I cycle the West Highland Way on my own by pushing myself hard. Some people may think this is stupid but for me not pushing my body to the extreme, and testing my limits is the difficult and annoying part. I am a great believer in doing everything I can physically when I can as there will come a time I cant take these challenges on in the same way I can now.
I am also training for The Three Peaks Challenge taking on the three highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales at the end of April. I am doing it with some friends while raising money for a local charity called Ayrshire Sports ability . This will give me the added hill training I now need for the hilly West Highland Way route.
Photography, ©Andy Sokell