|55k, 916m ascent|
This guffer has made a few comments in the past about sportives and the culture that has grown alongside the rise of the activity. A recent mini escape into the Perthshire Glens provided time once again to reflect upon sportive experiences of the past and the differences to the ultra marathon scene. My other half was running in the GlenLyon Ultra, 31 miles of epic scenery and pain to accompany the strides. BAM do a great job and the atmosphere at the beginning of the event is as refreshing as it is laid back (have a look on their site for a definition of BAM). Just like cyclists, runners demonstrate the classic symptoms of pre-start nerves:
1.Entrants stand in long queues waiting for a portaloo to become available
2.The classic last-minute tweaking and faffing with kit is clear to see
3.The overall ambience and atmosphere is a pleasant experience
4.You always hear someone asking if they have enough gels
However, there isn’t the bravado of the ‘all the gear and no idea brigade’ to deal with as you can’t exactly draft and be towed along by the bunch, or by a small number of riders who are willing to put in the effort and do their bit on the front. Covering in excess of 30 miles of trails, multiple river crossings, ascending and descending scree on shank’s pony is not something to take lightly and this is where the main differences lie. Ultra Runners tend to look out for one another, stories of runners sacrificing their PB to help others, share out kit, food and even provide and listen to advice(!) is very common.
The level of investment in kit and the all-important ‘van life’ decision is another parallel with cycling, especially the mtb scene. The area surrounding the start looked like a camper van section of a spring classic had been teleported into deepest Perthshire.
Pitlochry will no doubt look something similar this weekend as the Etape Caledonia rolls in and out of town. Thankfully, the ultra scene isn’t affected by a small section of society that doesn’t seem to appreciate the investment and interest that sportives create for the immediate and surrounding area – you just can’t please some people…..
The day after my Ultra-support duties, I decided to take the Mason Bokeh over Ben Lawers, down to Bridge of Balgie and then along Glen Lyon and back over towards Kenknock and Killin. Time and energy permitting, there was also the option of following the running route around Loch Lyon – that didn’t happen.
|Ben Lawers Dam|
If time was on my side, I would have swapped the 650b set up for the 700c and WTB Nanos. The WTB Rangers were a drag for 80% of the time, but came into their own on a few sections of the brilliant descent towards Bridge of Balgie. The road surface isn’t too bad, there are a few potholes and sections of gravel on the crown of the road to deal with. It has been a while since I spent so long on the roads, but one thing hasn’t changed. Isn’t it interesting how certain drivers can’t wait to get passed cyclists on singletrack roads, but when things point downwards, they don’t make use of passing places to let cyclists past? The number of sheep and lambs on the road provided opportunities to nip past as cars slowed down. This was another string to the Bokeh’s current set up. A quick switch from tarmac to grassy road side and you had the descent to enjoy.
The ride along Glen Lyon is stunning. Scenery and sky that make you stop and absorb the fact that you are in an area of outstanding beauty. The wind on the other hand was an absolute bugger!
The first 1km of the climb out of Loch Lyon heading toward Kenknock is steep and unforgiving, other than that, the climb is a pleasant experience.
The descent is another matter altogether. There are sections completely devoid of tarmac, strewn with potholes and gravel. Choosing a line and braking zones resulted in less time looking at the scenery and more time trying to stay upright.
Thankfully, the Bokeh was sure footed and just kept wanting to be let off the leash. The 55km route was shared with a few walkers, one trail runner, one cyclist and a Golden Eagle.
If you do happen to be reading this before this weekends Etape Caledonia, enjoy the weather, do your bit on the front and Stay upright