Day 7 – the end is in sight

Day 7 – This was it, the last day I’d planned for. I was intending to ride from this morning right to the finish in one go. It didn’t work out like that, but that was the original intention…

Leaving the bothy in good time, I started packing my bike. A flat tyre. Damn! Tubeless is meant to stop all this, but here I was with a completely flat tyre. I pulled the tyre off the rim, which was dented and thus no sealant would work. Out with the Leatherman, I bent the rim as straight as I could and attempted to fit a tube. However, no tube would fit as the amount of rim tape I’d used to get the tyre to seal prevented the tyre from mounting again. Time to remove some of that tape, and repeat.

An hour after I’d expected to leave, I was on my way, gingerly riding the rocky path aware that a puncture would be unthinkable at this stage in the race. Glen Affric is an awesome place, and with some regret at not seeing all of it last night I pressed on. I was aware of two hills ahead of me, then Fort Augustus. Both hills were dispatched easily enough, mostly rideable but on decent powerline roads so the going felt quick.

Fort Augustus arrived, not before some lovely and unexpected singletrack in the final approach. A stop at the petrol station / supermarket for flapjacks, and then I was on the Great Glen Way to Fort William.

If ever anyone was to ask which is better, the West Highland Way, or the Great Glen Way, the asker would only have got as far as “Great Gl…” before I would have answered with the former. There was nothing at all to recommend the GGW, it truly is a boring trail comprising fire roads, canal towpath and old railway paths.

However, what it lacked in finesse and enjoyment, it made up for in speed. I was quickly at Fort William, but I opted to avoid its attractions (even the McDonald’s that I’d been looking forward to for days) instead filling up on flapjacks at the petrol station near the Glen Nevis road.

It was 9pm, and I was in no mood to stop – yet.

This was the home stretch. I’d ridden this section as part of my training, doing the West Highland Way over a couple of days a few months prior. It was getting dark as I climbed into Lairigmor, and I got to the dogleg that signaled the section towards Kinlochleven. A straight run from here, although it was pitch black and I’d been on the go for 16hours. I was tiring, and with my aforementioned brake and leg problems it was time to pause.

My genius plan – put on my warm jacket, get out the bivi bag, keep my shoes on, then sleep for a few hours and be fresh and ready to go, then I’d make my way back to Tyndrum in time for a sub-7day finish.

What actually happened – I curled up in a nice space, but awoke an hour later freezing. My bivi wasn’t anywhere near windproof enough, and I should have used my sleeping bag too. I decided to descend further out of the wind, and find more appropriate shelter. That came in the form of a bush with some grass under it, so I took out the sleeping bag and made camp for the night.

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