strathcarron 100km audax

Sun, Sep 29, 2013

Decreptitude comes to us all! But I thought, surely these buns of steel are still steel-ish and to pop out on an Audax wouldn’t be asking too much of them. You see, Audax UK (AUK) have a groovy new ‘permanents’ system. But first let me explain what an ‘audax’ is. It’s a non competitive long distance cycling event, from anywhere between 50km to, well, over a thousand km. The longest I’ve done was the National 400, which you can read about here.

The audax calendar is chock full of events in the south of England, thinning as you head north to almost non existent in the highlands and this is where the ‘permanents’ come in handy. A permanent is an audax route that someone has ridden before and the distance has been validated by AUK so if you ride it, you can claim the distance. You can then buy a wee medal to mark the occasion. All very motivating and great fun. But you have to rely on someone creating a permanent. Now however, you can do a ‘DIY permanent’ where you lug the GPS round with you and create it as you go. Which is what I did.

I bought a ‘virtual brevet card’ online from AUK and the day before the ride (yesterday) I emailed my form to the organiser. All I then do is ride the route with the GPS logging my track and when I’m finished, email the GPX file to the organiser who validates the distance and then I can buy a nice wee medal. Great fun.

So Sunday dawned very red indeed.

Sunrise over Beinn Sgritheal

as I drove across to Strathcarron station, dumped the car and cycled off into the wilds of Wester Ross past Beinn Bhan.

Beinn Bhan

to the lovely wee village of Shieldaig.


From there I headed along the ’lumpy’ coast road to Torridon,

Beinn Alligan

and up the glen past the mighty giants.


It was strange to cycle past the crowded laybys, full of walkers’ cars. I’d normally be up there on a day like this but today I was going back to my cycling roots. The roads were pretty busy in places, especially with motorbikes but up on the remote single track roads above Shieldaig, they actually waved to me!

Cycling through Torridon

The ride up Glen Torridon and across to Kinlochewe was into a stiff easterly and the road was pretty busy, with locals shooting past only to brake hard as another ‘bongly’ blocked the road gawking at the view. I know the feeling!

I must say though, the two pasties and half a bag of jelly babies I shoved down my thrapple at Kinlochewe didn’t help much as I more or less cycled off with my belly full, not giving Mr. Stomach enough time to sift the contents and convert the mush into suitable energy stores. To do this, he needed a ready supply of blood to the enormous bag full of mashed up pasties and sugary sweets but Mr. L Leg and Mr. R Leg were hogging all the fluid. Pumping their way up Glen Docharty into a strengthening headwind.

Glen Docherty looking to Loch Maree and Slioch

It was inevitable. I hit the ‘bonk’. That feeling of emptiness and legs made of paper. The vacant stare and gaping mouth, getting lower and lower on the bars until you either realise what’s going on and stop, or you keel over and end up in the ditch! Yes, the bonk is no fun at all.

So I pulled into the viewpoint carpark and shoved a peanut butter roll into the mush bag Mr. Stomach was trying to digest but he didn’t seem to complain and by the time I’d contemplated the view, his newly restored blood supply had done the trick and I was off at a clip to the top of the pass and down the other side into a cold easterly wind all the way to Achnasheen.

Another bottle refill at the public bogs and I was off again, this time with a fully functioning mush pile dispensing a steady flow of energy and a tail wind to boot! I flew down the wide open strath, spinning in top gear, thinking to myself ‘you never see cyclists on this road’. Lo and behold another cyclist came round the corner!

A fantastic run back down to Strathcarron where I switched off the GPS, saved the track and checked the time. 5 hours 45mins. Not bad. The best I’ve done a 200km was 10 hours so the old buns need a bit of steeling up but considering they haven’t had to do this distance in years, all credit to them. I’ll be holding a party for them tonight!

Old faithful