Everyone else had left the bothy by the time I got up at 7. I think they were desperate to get the horribly shit trail ahead done and out the way as soon as possible. I don’t blame them, it’s awful.
Anyone who moans about the Loch Lomond carry on the West Highland Way clearly hasn’t tried this one. Four or five hours to do ten miles, it’s as tough as it gets. Uneven trail that you need to push up, along and down. Some carrying, a vague trail in places that you need to keep hunting for. More wind, this time enough to make cycling impossible in the brief sections of rideable trail.
I’m always reminded by the part in Robon Hood Prince of Thieves where a bemulleted Kevin Costner leaps from his boat at the shore and kisses the ground on his arrival in Britain. I wanted to do this when I got to the road. I settled for squeezing out my waterlogged socks and eating more porridge bars.
Next stop Oykel Bridge, although the motel en route seemed to be serving food. Oh well, Oykel Bridge was a known quantity. I arrived, and started stocking up on food and caffeine. A vague conversation with a local, and it was clear to all in the bar that I was exhausted. However, it was lunchtime and only the easy roll into Ullapool remained.
I stopped at the Duag Bridge schoolhouse for a quick look around, and pressed on towards Ullapool on a good trail. The trail soon deteriorated, as did my condition.
Another bonk less than an hour after lunch – this wasn’t good. Three bacon rolls and a dessert yet my energy levels were low. Something had gone seriously awry with my ability to digest food and get energy from it. I couldn’t pile in any more calories, and knowing I’d taken in so much recently I knew that something was wrong. I could tell the warning signs, the negative outlook, walking on perfectly good trails. Simple sugars would be my only way out of this situation. A can of Coke and then I started on the Sports Mixtures. A bag of these always lives in my pack on biking trips for emergencies such as these, but rarely do they get used. I rationed these out slowly, riding slowly to Ullapool. At times the combination of the headwind and my energy levels meant I had to walk on flat Tarmac. Pretty poor going but I knew things were slowly coming to an end for me.
I arrived in Ullapool around 6pm, my lead over my 2014 pace reduced from 8hrs at its peak to half that. I was lucky enough to find a great B&B so checked in there and started contemplating my fate.
I knew it was game over, I just could not continue. My knee was hurting, and I felt completely broken. This race had broken me, I had pushed too far and my body had said enough was enough. Aside from my knee and my food problem, I was on great form, riding strong but I had nothing to prove which made the decision easier. I had my HTR finish, I didn’t need to risk breaking myself further, going into worsening conditions not feeling my best.