Strathpuffer 2017 – Amanda, Tarah, Liz and I – the Fandangos Ride again, took on the 24 hour endurance mtb race in the middle winter in the north of Scotland as a team of four!
Camp was set up with the all-important fire pit and stoves to keep our extremities warm. This was followed by a pasta party put on by Contin’s Community Centre – a much needed injection of carbs before Race day!
Saturday – Race day
It all kicked off at 10am on Saturday with a Le Mans style start – a wee run up the fire road with bikes lined up either side. We made a plan which involved the first two doing single laps and the second two doing doubles; we’d all get to see the 11k trail before the daylight ran out. Amanda took the first lap mainly because she could run and to dust of her first time Strathpuffer nerves – and she smashed it, getting in well within the hour.
My first double set of laps weren’t due to start until 1.30pm so while my teammates were out pedalling I got fully into the role of tea supplier. Tarah reported the course was running a lot faster than last year but still rough and bumpy up top!
Starting with a double lap was a test for me so I paced myself to be sure to get them done. A nice low gear spin up the fire roads not getting too carried away. I made a point of enjoying the downs – working to my strength and to have some fun. The views were stunning from the top – blinding sunshine and a beautiful cloud inversion. I put myself under pressure not to stop to take photos. This was followed by more rocky bumpy descents, switchbacks up through the forests and finally finishing with smooth flowing turns all the way down to the dibbing tent. Huge contrast from last year’s trail ending which was full of thick tire grabbing mud. I felt energised after two consistent laps!
Our team was now 6 laps in and it was time to attach our lights. Bring on 17 hours of darkness! Our lap times were remaining solid along with a steady flow of tea and peanut butter and banana on toast. What to eat was another endurance challenge. Lack of hunger meant constant grazing and hydrating. While we were all awake we made sure each of us finished our laps with a bike clean and oil, and a hot cup of tea.
My next double lapper started at 9pm. By this time the temperature had plummeted and there was a team warning of two already slick icy sections. Having defrosted my bike chain and cassette at least three times, dried my Betty neck warmer and layered up in my FINDRA merino wool, I set off into the darkness following the stream of lights weaving up the hills. My laps felt slower due to the new challenge of ice to contend with in addition to tired legs towards the end of my forth lap. It was time for a nap which ended up being no more than a horizontal doze while Amanda and Tarah did their four laps. Both Liz and I agreed it was time to switch to single laps – our next shift would start about 2.30am.
Sunday Morning – race continues
After yet more defrosting of bikes around the fire Liz and I added four more laps on lap about. It was properly freezing at the top of the trail now – we were betting on -10C. The course was sheet ice in some parts. I was happily descending following the water down the trail to avoid the ice. This worked perfectly until my 6th lap; then splat, I was suddenly on my side, too quick to hurt or damage anything – phew!
22 laps done! While attempting nap no. 2 we did some quick calculations and worked out we could possibly each squeeze in one more lap! It would be close… Amanda rolled out her lap, Tarah conquered hers and then Liz smashed in a super speedy lap giving me over an hour to finish our last lap. The amount of encouragement and enthusiasm from other riders and marshals we had seen throughout the race was even more apparent as the end was in sight.
Safely in fourth and a lap down we had agreed to keep one of us out pedalling. I completed my 7th lap in time which gave us a total of 26 laps – 6 laps up from last year! Super chuffed and proud to be part of such a crazy, fun, motivational and committed team! An awesome result from a quartet of bike loving tea fuelled ladies ever so slightly out of our comfort zones – go team Fandangos! Big thankyou to FINDRA as well – my merino wool kept my circulation going when the temperature got into the minuses and didn’t let me over heat on the frantic uphill forest climbs. My Betty Merino Wool Neck Warmer was also an essential piece of kit on every one of my laps! Overall the Starthpuffer was an excellent but tough event! I have competed in nothing else like it!