Yep all, I'm fine. As those who know me surmised, getting some beers, haggis, single malts and enjoying the scenery. Head to London in the AM to meet up with the family, who flew in the day of the terrorist attack. Having lived in Saudi for 4 years, and being cognizant of my surroundings more than they, I'll feel better being there.
As for the race, that first day it rained most of the day (shocker, in Scotland, eh?). My goal was to get to the first town, Fort Augustus, the south end of Loch Ness, at the 96 mile mark. But due to the rain, deep peat bogs (sunk my front wheel to the hub a couple times), two 2000 plus foot climbs/hike a bike sections pushing my 50 pound gear laden load, I set up camp at the 62 mile mark, a full 1/3 short of my goal for the day. The midges were really bad. On fast downhill sections, they literally hit your face by the tens of thousands, like being sandblasted with midges..
Bertran de Cannes, a crazy Belgian, stopped just shy of where I did, and we saw each other off the next morning, he to go on, me to bail and head back south. He is putting on a European adventure race. It starts in Antwerp, Belgium, and traverses 5 nations, Belgium, France, Luxemburg, Germany, and the Netherlands, about 600 miles. This will be in some beautiful country, and the northern alps, with tough terrain. HTTP://WWW.A-CROSSTHE5.BE
Ive had asthma and bronchitis issues my whole life, and just finished a course of antibiotics a few days prior to the start, and felt better, over it. The cold rain, 50 degrees, winds of 40mph, and 10.5 hours pushing or actually on the bike set the bronchitis back in pretty good. I stopped in a bothy to get out of the rain for about an hour and a half, riding a total of 12 hours that day.
Once you go north of Fort Augustus, it is much more difficult to bail, and get back to the start, as it is much more remote, and few to no trains. So I stayed at Fort Augustus Sunday night, explored Loch Ness, rested, ate, beered up, and Monday AM took the return leg of the race course along the Caledonian Canal to Fort William, the western most mouth of Loch Ness system, as it dumps into the Atlantic. This was about a 40 mile stretch. So wound up doing about 140 miles of the actual race course, of the 560 miles total. Did about 10,000 feet of elevation gain, of the 52,500 feet total.
Did not use my GoPro as I thought I might, but got a few good pictures anyway. After the 2000+ foot climbs, you would think there would be some fast, bomber downhills. But after the first big climb up Ben Alder, the downhill after was all singletrack, with stone water bars. This was on General Wade's old military road, built by the English to fight the Scots. The stones are sharply edged, about 2 feet wide, a foot deep, placed perpendicular across the trail, to allow water to run down the mountain between the 2 stones. Some of these water bars are 3-4 inches apart, but with no pattern, some are 10-14 inches apart. Just when you get going good, you come across one that is wide, deep, and you have to dismount or risk damaging tire, rim, or doing an endo. None of these would come out good 30 miles from any town, phone, roads. It is easy to go over the smaller ones, but anything over 8 inches or so is challenging to hop over going 15+ mph considering the bike weight with gear, of 50 pounds.
The last run into Fort Augustus, however, after another 2000 fit climb over Corrieyaerack pass was double track, no water bars. I was up in the clouds at the top, and visibility was only about 80 feet, so I descended with some caution. As I descended, visibility improved dramatically, and then I hit 28+ mph coming down this. The views were stunning, coming down into Loch Ness. I felt real good at this point, and briefly considered going on north. But as I said, between my bronchitis and no good bail out points further on, I listened to my body-seldom ever do that. But as remote as this place is, too much to risk.
My insane decision to do this on my single speed was a factor also. I may have my frame builder set me up with a Rohloff hub, as he does a lot of those, and I want to do this again sometime, to completion. I am definitely planning to do this again someday. With a Rohloff hub. I still feel derailleurs are very susceptible to damage up here, and as there's one bike shop in 560 miles, simplicity is good. I wore all wool clothing, and my Keen bike shoes. These were extremely comfortable to ride in, walk in. They got wet very quickly, but then dried very quickly. These kicked ass over my Sidi Dominators or any other shoes in this terrain. I was one of about 14 of the starting 50 who bailed at some point. Javier, a crazy Spaniard, completed it on his single speed, geared 30x19. Neil Beltchenko, a young kid from Colorado, took first, coming in with a course record of under 4 days. Waiting on official time, but looks like he did it in about 3 days and 10 hours, or over 160 miles per day for 3 1/2 days continuous. Amazing feat.