Its a hard one to write up this so please stick with it !
It had been a long time coming !
We submitted a team on the early bird deal way back in November 2011 and finally the event was here.
Last minute (as always) I was abusing my contacts and some PTC’s for deals on kit.
Not having thoughts of grandeur on a top 10 finishing place its a bit cheeky to ask people for kit for free, mix that in with time of year and the current financial doom and gloom it makes it even harder !
Kit changes from the organisers did not help, then there were funny sized bike boxes thrown into the equation.
In the end we arrived in Stirling with huge amounts of kit, eager to get the maps and find out where we were going.
Registration was well organised as we signed out lives away and picked up the map packs and race bibs.
Adventure Zone Scotland was team number 36 of 36 teams entered, I chuckled worried that it was a sign !
We instantly sat down in the hall and pulled the maps out to see the true enormity of the race route.
There was some very familiar ground in there which instantly made it easy for us to get our heads round and start planning for the race, the crux in our minds was the epic trekking section which we chose to ignore for the moment.
The team was upbeat with a nervous edginess, time to take our mind off things and let it all sink in so we set up camp for the next few days and sorted kit.
The race brief confirmed a lot of the thoughts we had over the initial look at the maps, questions were asked and some felt obliged to ask questions that had already been answered or that were in the route book issued with the maps (must be an AR thing !).
Smithy and Skinny decided to go home and do the fatherly thing and I half expected not to see them the next morning !
I caught up with some Chris and Trudie that night at Pizza Hut, they were supporting the event all week driving our bikes around the country whilst we enjoyed ourselves !
Sleep was easy with a full belly but maps flicked past my eyelids as I tried to process the route more .
Sunday was still full of things to do !
Team blogs were to be started, Captains Q&A session and bags and bike boxes were to be dropped off.
Finally we were going to do something other than faff with kit and that was the prologue.
It was a relay affair from Stirling Castle Smithy did the run then Skinny was out orienteering once back H headed out on a rather greasy mountain bike route and then I got the loop to Wallace monument.
Mostly on road it was nice to get moving and as the light was starting to fade I reached the top of the road at the monument.
The greasy single track on the way down was interesting and I got a sharp reminder that I was on Continental Race Kings.
We cycled back happy with what we had done and celebrated with dinner in Nando’s.
Monday morning and the weather was kind to us, we had breakfast and packed the tent up and any excess kit that was not going with us.
I sat on the white throne getting down to race weight and a moment of contemplation and I am sure there was some sort of prayer in there too !
8:45 and we were trackered up and waiting to go, my nerves were jangling but the team banter was good.
The run out and back to Wallace monument was the same route as I had biked, we plodded along and soon it was done and we were on the bikes setting a good pace along the road.
Stop off at Doune and then we had a rowing section on Lake of Menteith.
There was some jelly sweet action as Smithy and I rowed so skinny fed us so we did not slow down.
From here we had decided to short course to Killin and try and get a bit of time on the hill and get a couple of checkpoints extra.
On route we passed Rob Roys grave where the marshalls were keen to get rid of us as we ate something.
Some more technical muddy biking later and it was taking its toll on Mr Smith’s undercarriage so a quick stop allowed him to lube up much to the amusement of Skinny.
Down hill into Killin via the Rob Roy way was great and as we rolled into the town hall big Chris was surprised to see us so soon !
Bikes packed and hot food consumed we carried the boats to Loch Tay and set out on the short paddle to the transition point.
At the transition point we were just getting ready to hit the hill when there was a heavy rain shower and as we assembled our Mountain King poles the sun broke through causing multiple rainbows.
Further up it was Skinnys turn to have issues that required lube !
Banter was good as it got dark, we headed west for the checkpoints on Meall Nan Tarmachan and Beinn nan Eichan the ridge was an experience in the dark and it was hard to gauge distance travelled before we ended up dropping down to the track and returning back to the Loch.
We had 45 minutes till we could go in on the water again so we leaned against the building and grabbed 45 minutes of kip that was the first since Stirling.
Paddling down the Loch was a chore made worse by the head wind that picked up (typical that the wind normally blows the other way normally !).
It was hard to stay awake and I am sure there must have been some sleep paddling experienced by all at some point.
You could see Kenmore for ages without it getting any closer and then we finally entered the River Tay.
Home turf saw us rattle down this section to Aberfeldy where we stopped for a quick coffee at the Cycling Centre as the rain bounced it down.
Down the next section the sun came out and as we entered the faster water we overtook a few boats, by fishermans rapid we had a line of boats behind us and the Marshall (Willie Mcleod) directed us left over a very shallow bit of water, there was an exchange of words and we did as we were told battering rocks as we did so (sorry Willie).
Everybody was allegedly proficient so why could we not chose our own route ?
At the top of Tull we were marshalled to the side before the main rapids, and had to portage the boats to the town hall, we had sorted this only to be told we could not carry the boats the way we wanted to too so had to waste time reorganising again.
Tully hall was the transition and was good to get dry and eat food.
We had to serve out the time penalty from the prologue so we ate lunch and grabbed another 45 mins kip in between being kicked by other racers and having bags dropped on me !
Back on the bikes we headed for more familiar ground and a mighty steep climb !
But that’s for another day !